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CBD can be risky for pilots

It’s in more products than you think

CBD (Cannabidiol) products have become increasingly popular in media, but for pilots, the risks these products pose far outweigh their possible benefits.

CBD is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis (marijuana). Derived from the hemp plant, CBD has been touted for its wellness benefits, without the psychoactive response of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis.

CBD product production is currently unregulated, and its use in food products is not approved by the FDA. That said, CBD can be found in many personal hygiene, wellness, and consumable products around the country. At this time, the FDA has only approved one CBD product: a prescription drug used to treat seizures associated with two forms of epilepsy.

CBD is considered a non-psychoactive compound but can legally have trace amounts of THC, up to 0.3 percent. That’s not enough to cause a psychoactive response but is enough to show up on drug tests, which can’t currently differentiate between THC and CDB.

Regardless of state laws, THC is still a Schedule 1 illicit substance in the eyes of the federal government and with that, the FAA has a zero-tolerance policy. And because drug tests can’t tell the difference between THC and CBD, pilots who are suspected of using THC, accidentally through CBD or otherwise, can be subject to certificate revocation while a positive drug test following an accident could even jeopardize insurance coverage. The FAA’s application for a medical certificate requires pilots to report “any and all positive drug tests whether administered at the federal, state, or local level, or by a private employer.”

With the recent uptick in CBD popularity and the risks its consumption can cause to aviators, pilots everywhere have taken to social media to post images of accidental CBD exposures or near-exposures. Pilots found CBD in everything from shampoo to water and cocktails.

For pilots, avoidance is recommended when it comes to any CBD products. It’s helpful to become aware of other common CBD terminology like “full or broad spectrum” and read product labels carefully, including the ingredients.

Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: Pilot Regulation, Gear

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