The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an advisory clarifying its marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) requirements for pilots.
According to the FAA, any pilots who test positive for THC are disqualified from certain certification – even if it’s just a trace amount of THC from CBD products or if they’re using marijuana in a state where it’s legal.
The FAA issued the advisory after receiving “a number of inquiries about marijuana”. As states across the country have legalized marijuana and CBD has become legal nationwide, organizations like the FAA are under increasing pressure to clarify regulations.
The agency added that pilots were especially interested in learning the rules governing CBD, the non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant purported to have powerful health benefits.
To justify its policy, the FAA stated that the cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, and that the US Department of Transportation continues to drug test pilots for the presence of THC. According to the FAA, it doesn’t matter if there are trace amounts of THC or large amounts of THC: it’s illegal to consume the compound regardless.
Pilots Are Allowed to Use CBD – As Long As There’s No THC Whatsoever Inside
The FAA’s announcement does not specifically allow the use of CBD products among pilots. It’s not illegal for pilots to have CBD in their systems, and CBD is legal nationwide.
However, the FAA warned that many commercially available CBD products could be mislabeled and contain higher-than-stated amounts of THC that could be detected in a drug test.
“Product labels are often inaccurate,” said the FAA in a bulletin published in its FAA Safety Briefing magazine. “Although most CBD products claim to have under 0.3-percent THC, they could contain high enough levels of THC to make a drug test positive. Use of CBD oil is not accepted as an affirmative defense against a positive drug test.”
In other words, the FAA does not specifically ban the use of CBD among pilots. However, any pilot who tests positive for THC – even trace amounts – after using CBD oil cannot use CBD as an excuse.
The FAA Has No Exceptions for Medical Marijuana
Additionally, the FAA clarified that there would be no special exceptions for those who use medical marijuana. The FAA casted doubt on the idea that there were any verified medicinal benefits of marijuana:
“We need to understand much more before considering the use of marijuana and its derivatives for airman certificate holders. … No special issuances have been granted for conditions treated with medical marijuana.”
The FAA and Other Federal Agencies Continue to Clarify Drug Policies
The Federal Aviation Administration is one of several federal organizations that continue to clarify drug policies.
Not only have a growing number of states legalized marijuana, but CBD has now become legal nationwide. As pointed out by MarijuanaMoment, Organizations are struggling to figure out what that means for inter-state mail and travel – among other things.
Last week, the US Postal Service announced that hemp products can be mailed as long as the sender keeps records proving the hemp has been tested and satisfies state and federal requirements (most importantly, that it contains less than 0.3% THC).
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in May that passengers can bring hemp products on flights.
The US Patent and Trademark Office also clarified that hemp brands are eligible for registration, while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and FDA continue to share updates explaining how they plan to regulate the crop in a safe and legal way.
Will the FAA Ever Reverse Its Stance?
Some lawmakers want to prevent federal workers from being fired for testing positive for THC in states where recreational use of marijuana is legal.
In March, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced a bill that would protect federal workers from being fired solely for testing positive for THC in states where it’s legal. That bill, however, excluded federal workers in certain positions, including those in high-level or prominent positions and those with top secret security clearances.
Ultimately, the jury remains out on how marijuana and CBD will be regulated at the federal level. Pilots, however, will need to continue avoiding cannabis for now while being extra careful to ensure their CBD products contain 0% THC.