Arizona police board changes rules on accepting recruits who use CBD products

Applicants for law enforcement jobs in Arizona can worry less about disclosing their use of cannabis-derived products after the board that regulates peace officer certifications for the state approved the use of CBD products.

The widely available CBD oil does not fit into a clear category regarding the standards of drug use for peace officers, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training board said last month.

“We have rules specific to marijuana use, we have rules specific to narcotics and dangerous drug use; however, CBD oil doesn’t fit neatly into any of those categories from my perspective,” said Matt Giordano, executive director at AZPOST.

It was local law enforcement agencies across the state that began to report to the board that the over-the-counter use of CBD oil was a recurring theme among new applicants, said Giordano. The substance is a component of cannabis that does not cause intoxication. Tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, is the psychoactive element in the drug.

He said new applicants were disclosing to their respective departments that they used the CBD oil on their knees or elbows before a run and had it infused in food. “There is even places in Tempe that can add it to your pizza or a cocktail. It’s not illegal — it’s something you can purchase over the counter,” Giordano said.

Before their decision, the board had been taking a strong approach against the use of the substance by classifying it similarly to marijuana use.

Giordano said that stance against CBD products could’ve eliminated “really good candidates” from becoming peace officers, but there have been no official cases of applicants being denied their certification by disclosing their CBD use.

Low levels of THC are sometimes found in CBD products, but that is now classified as “hemp,” which was amended from the controlled substances list by the 2018 Agriculture Improvement Act, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The improvement act also says some CBD oil products, although not classified as a controlled substance, are allowed to have low levels of THC, as long as it is no more than 0.3%.

However, “it’s an unregulated business and no one is double checking to make sure those numbers are accurate,” Giordano said.

The FDA has only approved one cannabis-derived and three cannabis-related drug products available by prescription as of April 2019.

“If I was still a sworn peace officer, I would refrain from using any form of CBD post employment until the federal government has a better handle on the oversight of it,” Giordano said.

Once they become certified peace officers, employees are under the rules and regulations of their department.

“My caution to agency heads is if someone does in a random drug test come up positive for THC, the internal investigation would be incumbent to find out how that person ingested that THC,” Giordano said.

For now, local law enforcement leaders within the Pima County Sheriff’s Department have not made specific changes regarding the use of CBD products.

“Our practice is that if it is hemp-based and over the counter, it does not affect employment in any way,” said Deputy James Allerton, a Pima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. “If it requires a medical marijuana card, we would still consider it drug or marijuana usage.”

Giordano said this policy clarification is part of the AZPOST’s goal of a “modernization” of Arizona peace officer standards.

“The most major rewrite of our rules on pre employment was back in the mid-’90s and I think we can agree that society has changed since the mid-’90s,” Giordano said. “When our rules were written, CBD oil wasn’t a topic of discussion. What the board did was just clarify our rules; it didn’t lower our rules at all.”

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