At the end of July, the Home Secretary announced that certain Cannabis-based products would be available with a prescription as early as this autumn, for those patients with ‘exceptional clinical needs’.  (See Cannabis-derived medicines to be made legal)    For those suffering from extreme epilepsy, this could offer a way of managing their condition by reducing seizures and enabling them to live a ‘normal life’ – as demonstrated by the Billy Caldwell case earlier this year.

But what are the downsides to this announcement? Does this mean that Cannabis will be easier to access, and has the government has deemed it safe to use? Well no, not exactly!

Its important to make the distinction between what is classed as ‘medicinal cannabis’ and ‘recreational cannabis’.    The cannabis plant produces 2 main compounds (known as cannabinoids) that have recognised therapeutic effects – THC which is what causes the ‘high’, and CBD which has anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and anti-psychotic properties.

In certain circumstances where conventional medicines have failed, the properties of CBD have been found to alleviate symptoms such as seizures associated with severe epilepsy or spasticity in MS.  But this ‘medicinal cannabis compound’ does not contain the same levels of THC to create the ‘high’ associated with recreational cannabis.

So what does this mean for companies who implement alcohol and drug testing on a regular basis?  Are your employees all going to be blaming a positive for THC on the CBD Oil their local health shop stocks?

The CBD oils available as food supplements in the UK are derived from the Hemp plant – a strain of the cannabis plant that contains virtually no THC (the compound that makes you ‘high’).   As drug tests look for the THC compound, for those who have consumed hemp this is unlikely to trigger a positive.  Marijuana is the strain that DOES contain high levels of THC – which is what ‘recreational cannabis’ is – and it is that which the drug tests pick up.

The Cannabis Oil they are looking to legalise (for medicinal use only) is derived from the strain of Cannabis plant that DOES have a presence of THC within its make-up  (NOT Hemp) although the THC present is likely to be lower than recreational marijuana.  Hence requiring it to be legalised for medicinal use.

But unless your employee suffers from a chronic debilitating illness where all other conventional medicines have failed, and has been through the process of fighting for what is currently an illegal product to be available for use, it is highly unlikely that their CBD food supplement could trigger a positive in a drug-test.


So no.  No blaming Holland & Barrett for that one.