Rolando Rosa was using CBD supplements to help with his pain. He found out the pills had caused him to test positive for THC when doctors used it as grounds to deny him a liver transplant.
Doctors refused to give a Dallas-area man a liver-transplant after he failed a drug test, even though he only used hemp-based CBD oil, his family reports.
Contrary to popular opinion about drug tests and CBD, it is rare but possible to fail a drug test from using only hemp-based CBD supplements.
Rolando Rosa is in urgent need of a liver transplant. According to his daughter, Monica Garcia, her father had turned to over-the-counter CBD supplements to ease his chronic pain while reducing his use of his prescription opiate painkillers. Just when a transplant seemed within reach, doctors sent Rosa home due to testing positive for THC. Hospital officials suggested this reflected “noncompliance” with doctors’ orders.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow because we were so close to having everything done,” Garcia told us.
Drug Tests and CBD: The Myth and the Reality
Consumers are buying millions of dollars worth of CBD oil supplements annually. One reason people seek them out is that they can offer many of the healing benefits of the cannabis plant without the high associated with psychoactive cannabis (‘marijuana’).
Legally, industrial hemp and hemp products must have less than 0.3 percent THC, far less than necessary to cause any high. However, these trace amounts of THC are occasionally detectable by drug tests.
As a result, when it comes to drug tests and CBD, we can only talk in generalities. Most people won’t fail a drug test from taking CBD oil alone, but there are exceptions. Different testing methods, variations in personal biochemistry, or extremely heavy use of CBD oil can cause failed drug tests. And these rare failed tests can have real consequences, from lost jobs to lost access to medical care.
According to Garcia, doctors at Methodist Dallas Medical Center told Rosa, “you can only take what we prescribe you.”
But Garcia said CBD seemed more effective. She worries about the potential toxic effects of prescription painkillers on her father’s already ailing liver. “What you prescribe him will kill him sooner!”
Rosa is far from alone. Thousands of consumers report reduced use of pharmaceuticals through CBD.
Methodist Dallas Medical Center did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
Hemp Is ‘Very Benign’ With Few Drug Interactions
CBD oil is widely considered to be extremely safe, with even the World Health Organization declaring that CBD should not be scheduled as a dangerous drug. However, many medical professionals, still caught up in the war on drugs, defer to the Drug Enforcement Agency which continues to insist that CBD is illegal.
The Ministry of Hemp reached out by email to Dr. Sue Sisley, a physician and medical researcher who is outspoken in her support of investigating the medical benefits of cannabis in all its forms. Sisley stressed that she couldn’t speak to specifically to Rosa’s case.
“This patient may have other complicating factors that cause the doctor to reject his transplant,” she noted.
Speaking in generalities, however, Sisley supported transplant patients having access to cannabis. “This plant has a very benign side effect profile that is often well tolerated and seems to have very few clinically relevant drug interactions.”
More research is needed in terms of cannabis’ effects on transplant patients, Sisley suggested. “There is a considerable amount of scientific data published in peer reviewed medical journals confirming that cannabis plant has anti-inflammatory action.”
Hemp-based CBD supplements are poorly regulated, leading to some issues with quality (which also sometimes appear in psychoactive cannabis). Total legalization and improved regulation would likely largely solve these issues.
“Most regulated markets guarantee that plant material is either free from fungal growth or nearly free from mold contamination,” Sisley wrote.
Garcia Hopes to Raise Awareness About CBD and Drug Tests
Garcia told us she hopes her father’s case will spread “awareness” about CBD and drug tests “to other people who have to go through this.”
She also hopes that hospitals will stop rejecting people from transplant waiting lists just for using cannabis or hemp.
“Hospital facilities need to start looking at their policies and regulations and maybe start doing some research on CBD and THC and the benefits of it rather than exclude people or demonize people over it,” Garcia said.
Rosa got real relief from CBD, said Garcia. “That was the only time my dad actually felt good.”
Since then, they’ve halted use of the supplements out of fear of facing another rejection. “He has been hurting,” she said, with obvious pain in her voice.
Fear, she suggested, also prevented Rosa from sharing his use of CBD when he first met with doctors.
Garcia has set up a GoFundMe campaign for Rolando Rosa to help cover his medical expenses. Rosa lives on disability, with some help from his wife’s income. “There are medical bills mounting … We live six hours away, me and my sister, there’s no extended family up there to help him.”
There is still hope for his transplant: another Dallas transplant facility has agreed to evaluate Rosa for admission. Officials there told Garcia that the drug test won’t disqualify her father, but they’re still waiting for a final decision.
“We’re holding our breath until we hear back.”
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