Have you seen advertisements for "legal" Delta-8 THC made from hemp and are curious about whether or not you can use it as a fed? Here’s what you need to know. Following is recent guidance from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence addressing the impact of using marijuana or CBD-related products and A federal agent, who worked a large portion of his almost 30 years as a federal employee with the Department of Homeland Security, was recently fired. The reason for termination: use of CBD oil. Isn’t CBD oil legal? In most cases, yes. However, federal agencies are lashing out at workers who use the product. CBD
Can federal employees use Delta-8 THC products?
The other day someone in the neighborhood was telling me about the new “pot shop” down the street.
At first, I assumed that he meant another store selling CBD products, but he insisted that the store was selling some kind of new legal weed.
I had no idea what he was talking about since we have one of the most conservative state legislatures in the nation. There’s no way our state would legalize pot (even by accident).
So I went to the store to check it out. And indeed- the store is filled with “THC” edibles. However, they’re apparently legal since they use an isomer of THC called “Delta-8 THC” or Δ 8 -THC.
As someone with a PhD in a chemistry adjacent field, the legality of Delta-8 THC kind of blew my mind.
If you’re a federal employee who wants to investigate Delta-8 THC and are looking for more information, I’ve tried to compile the most comprehensive guide possible.
Table of Contents
Please do not confuse my personal blog for financial advice, tax advice or an official position of the U.S. Government. This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.
Please be careful when mixing drugs (of any kind, including alcohol) with a federal job. This post is solely informational.
What is Delta-8 THC and how is it different from the THC in weed?
If you’re reading this post, I’m assuming that you know that there is a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana that makes you high. Technically, when most people say “THC” they are actually referring to “Delta-9 THC” or Δ 9 -THC.
To explain what Delta-8 THC is and how it is (ever so slightly) different from what makes you high in weed (Delta-9 THC) we need to cover a little bit of organic chemistry. Don’t worry, I promise it’s worth it.
Organic chemistry is the study of stuff made out of carbon atoms, which is pretty much everything in the natural world. Carbon is unique in that it likes to bond to itself and to other molecules like hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen without too much fuss.
Chemical structures of Delta-8 THC and Delta-9 THC (the THC in pot). Note the similarities. Chemical structures taken from Wikipedia shared under creative common and public domain licenses from Vortioxetine and Harbin.
These carbon/hydrogen/nitrogen/oxygen atoms like to form chains with weird shapes. So organic chemists like to describe molecules (groups of atoms) two different ways. They can either write a chemical formula (like H2O) or draw a little diagram showing all of the bond positions.
Sometimes, you can have the same number of carbon/hydrogen/nitrogen/oxygen bonds in a molecule but they are arranged differently. When this happens it is called an isomer. Isomers have the same chemical formula but are different molecules because the bonds are arranged differently.
Both Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC have the same chemical formula: C21H30O2. If you look carefully at the chemical structures you can see that there is just one difference between these two molecules- the position of the double bond in the cyclohexane ring is different. (For those people allergic to chemistry, this means that there are 2 lines in the hexagon in the top of the picture. If it is on the top left, it’s Delta-8 THC and if it is on the top right, it’s Delta-9 THC.)
You don’t need to be a master chemist to see that these molecules are nearly identical. In fact, even our body has a hard time telling the difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 THC. As a result, Delta-8 THC gives similar sensations to marijuana use, although Delta-8 THC is thought to be slightly less potent.
How is Delta-8 THC even legal in the United States?
So now that you understand how similar Delta-8 THC is to “real” THC, you might assume that it is just as illegal as the pot you bought from the creepy old guy that hung around your college dorm.
Surprisingly, you’d be wrong.
The 2018 farm bill changed the rules regarding industrial hemp. It may surprise you to learn that the marijuana plants can produce useful industrial fibers called hemp. Europe has found many uses for hemp fibers- including carbon negative insulation. While both hemp and weed are grown from the same genus/species of plant, they have been selectively bred for different purposes. Recreational pot plants have been tweaked to produce high amounts of (Delta-9) THC whereas industrial hemp has been bred to increase fiber yields.
Prior to the 2018 farm bill, you could not grow any sort of hemp/marijuana plant in the United States (I’m sure the Puritans who founded this country were proud). However, the 2018 farm bill legalized the growing of hemp so long as it has less than 0.3% of Delta-9 THC.
Industrial hemp vs. Delta-8 THC
So what happens when you pass a law allowing people to grow and sell hemp products with less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC? Stoner-capitalists figure out a way to use this loophole to get rich from hemp.
While hemp contains non-psychoactive amounts of Delta-9 THC and Delta-8 THC, that hasn’t stopped entrepreneurs from figuring out a way to make money from Delta-8 THC products.
Producers are currently taking the industrial hemp and running it through some sort of chemical conversion concentrating process to extract the Delta-8 THC from the plants and then selling it to consumers.
While Delta-8 THC is sold as “natural” because it comes from plants, that’s kind of like saying that high-fructose corn syrup is natural because it comes from corn.
Also- the way the 2018 Farm Bill cleared the way for any hemp product that contains less than 0.3% Delta-9 THC, there is almost no regulation on Delta-8 THC products. When you take Delta-8 products, you’re not really sure what you’re eating (besides the sour-patch kid they dipped in the hemp oil). In fact, there have been cases of people getting arrested for having hemp gummies that exceed the legal limit of 0.3% Delta-9 THC.
Currently, the way Delta-8 is regulated it is treated the same as any other hemp product. So just as you can buy hemp fibers, you can buy Delta-8 hemp gummies. From what I can tell, you can also ship it through the mail. Don’t believe me? Just google “Delta-8 gummies shipped to me”. Insane- right?
Can I get high from Delta-8 THC?
If I were a real blogger, I would do some “blog research” and eat some Delta-8 THC gummies and give you a status report.
Unfortunately, I’m 99% sure that writing a post about my hemp edible adventure would be a sure ticket for a federal employee drug test under the reasonable suspicion clause.
Also- I’ve been sober for several years now and have no desire to ingest any mind altering substances of any kind (☸️ ).
But according to people in my neighborhood, Delta-8 gummies are amazing. And way easier and less sketchy to obtain than illegal weed.
Can federal employees use Delta-8 THC?
So we’ve covered that Delta-8 edibles are kind of legal through this loophole in the 2018 Farm Bill, and that they can make you high because your body reacts to Δ 8 -THC in a similar manner to Δ 9 -THC, we come to the next logical question.
Can federal employees use Delta-8 THC products to get high?
The answer is almost certainly “no”.
For an explanation why, you can read this departmental memo from the USDA. Federal employees must still comply with the Federal Drug Free-Workplace Program as mandated by Executive Order 12564 and Public Law 100-71 and implemented according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) drug tests. While they note that hemp products are legal so long as they contain less than 0.3% Δ 9 -THC, they note that these hemp products are not regulated and sometimes contain high amounts of THC. Furthermore, there is “no legitimate medical explanation for a
marijuana positive test result“.
So basically- if you test positive for marijuana in your federal employee drug test, you’re screwed. Regardless of whether you consumed a Delta-8 gummy worm or smoked a joint.
Will Delta-8 THC show up in my federal employee drug test?
Delta-8 THC will almost certainly show up on your federal employee drug test for two reasons:
- Delta-8 THC edibles are made by concentrating hemp products and are not required to be tested for Delta-9 THC. The edibles you consume could unknowingly contain illegal amounts of Delta-9 THC.
- The SAMHSA drug test does not test for Delta-9 THC but instead “marijuana metabolites” in your urine.
If you read the Mandatory Guidelines for Drug Testing in the Federal Register, you will see that they test for “marijuana metabolites” as part of the federal drug testing with a cutoff of 50 ng/mL. The metabolite they look for is Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid or THCA.
Whether you take Δ 8 -THC or Δ 9 -THC, your body is going to break the molecule down and it will pass with your urine. Since the drug test is not specific to Δ 9 -THC and instead looks at THC metabolites in your urine, you are likely to produce THCA in your urine regardless of which form of THC you ingest.
According to the Mayo Clinic, THCA has a long half-life in your body and just a single use of marijuana can be detected for up to 7 days. Frequent use will create higher levels of THCA in your body that will take longer to clear.
Summary- Δ 8 -THC and federal employment don’t mix
Unfortunately, if you enjoy marijuana, there are currently no safe ways to partake in hemp or cannabis products while employed by the federal government. However, as the cannabis legalization grows in the United States, we could reach a day where marijuana is legalized nationally at which point federal employees could enjoy as many Delta-8 (or 9) THC edibles as their hearts desire.
Sam i.e. “Gov Worker” started working for the government at age 18 and loved it so much that he never left. He started GovernmentWorkerFI in 2019 to help fellow federal employees understand their benefits, take control of their finances, and live their best lives.
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Guidance Issued on Marijuana and Federal Employee Security Clearances
Following is recent guidance from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence addressing the impact of using marijuana or CBD-related products and investing in marijuana-related businesses where they are allowed by state law. (Note: The acronym SecEA means “Security Executive Agent”—that is, the Director of National Intelligence—and SEAD 4 refers to “Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 4, National Security Adjudicative Guidelines.”)
Based on current federal law, I provide additional adjudicative guidance herein on three topics that have generated ongoing inquiries from federal agencies: 1) recency of recreational marijuana use; 2) use of cannabidiol (CBD) products such as CBD oils; and 3) investment by persons in marijuana-related businesses.
With regard to the first topic, agencies are instructed that prior recreational marijuana use by an individual may be relevant to adjudications but not determinative. The SecEA has provided direction in SEAD 4 to agencies that requires them to use a “whole-person concept.” This requires adjudicators to carefully weigh a number of variables in an individual’s life to determine whether that individual’s behavior raises a security concern, if at all, and whether that concern has been mitigated such that the individual may now receive a favorable adjudicative determination. Relevant mitigations include, but are not limited to, frequency of use and . whether the individual can demonstrate that future use is unlikely to recur, including by signing an attestation or other such appropriate mitigation. Additionally, in light of the long-standing federal law and policy prohibiting illegal drug use while occupying a sensitive position or holding a security clearance, agencies are encouraged to advise prospective national security workforce employees that they should refrain from any future marijuana use upon initiation of the national security vetting process, which commences once the individual signs the certification contained in the Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions.
With respect to the use of CBD products, agencies should be aware that using these cannabis derivatives may be relevant to adjudications in accordance with SEAD 4. Although the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of2018 excluded hemp from the definition of marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act, products containing greater than a 0.3 percent concentration of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, do not meet the definition of “hemp.” Accordingly, products labeled as hemp-derived that contain greater than 0.3 percent THC continue to meet the legal definition of marijuana, and therefore remain illegal to use under federal law and policy. Additionally, agencies should be aware that the Federal Drug Administration does not certify levels of THC in CBD products, so the percentage of THC cannot be guaranteed, thus posing a concern pertaining to the use of a CBD product under federal law. Studies have shown that some CBD products exceed the 0.3 percent THC threshold for hemp, notwithstanding advertising labels (Reference F). Therefore, there is a risk that using these products may nonetheless cause sufficiently high levels of THC to result in a positive marijuana test under agency-administered employment or random drug testing programs. Should an individual test positive, they will be subject to an investigation under specific guidelines established by their home agency.
Finally, with regard to the topic of investments, agencies should note that an adjudicative determination for an individual’s eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position may be impacted negatively should that individual knowingly and directly invest in stocks or business ventures that specifically pertain to marijuana growers and retailers while the cultivation and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. Under SEAD 4′ s guidance for personal conduct (Reference B, Guideline E), a decision to invest in an activity, including a marijuana-related business, which the individual knows violates federal law could reflect questionable judgment and an unwillingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations. That is, it is appropriate for adjudicative personnel to consider whether an individual is knowingly facilitating violations of the Controlled Substances Act by engaging in such investments. On the other hand, if the marijuana-related investment is not direct, such as an investment in a diversified mutual fund that is publicly-traded on a United States exchange, adjudicators should presume that individual did not knowingly invest in a marijuana-related business~ thus, the indirect investment should not be considered relevant to adjudications.
In some instances, the investment itself may be illegal, which is also relevant to SEAD 4′ s guidance for criminal conduct (Reference. B, Guideline J), which by its very nature calls into question an individual’s ability or willingness to comply with laws, rules, and regulations.
However, under the whole-person concept, any mitigating factors should be considered. For example, if an individual holds direct stock investments pertaining to marijuana growers and retailers, divestment of such activity or disassociation of such activity should be considered a mitigating factor when rendering an adjudicative decision.
Heads of agencies are expected to advise their prospective and current workforce to adhere to federal laws prohibiting marijuana use.
Federal agent loses job after using CBD for chronic pain
A federal agent, who worked a large portion of his almost 30 years as a federal employee with the Department of Homeland Security, was recently fired. The reason for termination: use of CBD oil.
Isn’t CBD oil legal?
In most cases, yes. However, federal agencies are lashing out at workers who use the product. CBD products often contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As a result, use of the product can trigger a positive drug test for use of marijuana.
Conventional drug testing cannot distinguish between THC from marijuana use or CBD products. This is because conventional testing generally shows that THC is present in the sample but does not provide information on the amount. As a result, those who have a very small amount, as found in CBD products, test positive in the same way those who are using marijuana, which has a much higher level of THC, would get a positive result.
What happens of a federal agent has a positive drug test?
Federal agencies generally have a no-tolerance policy when it comes to THC. Any presence of the amount in a sample, regardless of the quantity, could result in termination.
Is this a common problem?
A spokesperson for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association stated a “couple dozen” federal enforcement officers are having trouble due to use of CBD products. Data for other federal positions would likely indicate the issue is much larger.
What options are available for federal employees facing termination?
Those who find themselves facing an investigation, discipline and potential termination are wise to act to protect their interests. An attorney experienced in federal employment matters can review the situation and discuss your options.