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.
Read on to learn more about drug tests and CBD, and to find out how you can help Rolando Rosa.
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.
We 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.”
Ministry of Hemp will update this story as we hear more about this situation.
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As a healthcare provider I understand the pain a lot of patients have to endure daily. Opioids are not the answer. I always recommend alternative medicine as an option. This article was great!
Very sad to hear this. Hope Rolando gets his urgently needed liver soon.
This decision-making just disgusts me and if looked a little closer and more in depth with the law you will see that the DEA does not consider industrial hemp-based CBD to be illegal. He DEA made this public knowledge in a lawsuit just this year against the Hemo association and can be found on their website as well. It is misinformation such as this that is beyond frustrating in the fight for understanding! Know the law, do your research. Please do not misinform others.
It is important to remember that CBD oil has trace amounts of THC and can cause a failed drug test. This is not usually the case; however, it can happen.
Interestingly, I am a transplant coordinator and I used to manage the UNOS Waitlist and have been faced with a similar situation. I have a very hedged opinion in this topic. Due to the fact that one has to be completely honest with the transplant team and Rolando has obviously not been as evidenced by by not reporting CBD use prior to the pain management doctor finding CBD in his or blood or urine. Reason being is someone had to die to give him a liver and using restricted substances say #1 if I am not going to follow the rules of the program before I get my Liver then why would I follow them after I Get my Liver. In which case this makes him a higher risk of rejection. Having said that I do agree there is a place for CBD. BUT the risks of cancers from smoking it are real and a lot is still not known about side effects. When you have a transplanted organ in you you must take anti rejection drugs. Those anti rejection drugs can and will increase the risks of fast growing cancers so any behaviors such as use of program bannned substances can and will get you removed from the waitlist or never approved! However, you can be listed at as many transplant centers as you want to be and all qualifying criteriais different from program to program.
There are programs more lenient and I believe more to follow lienincy IF IT IS REPORTED PRIOR TO FINDING IT IN YOUR SYSTEM. You have to be completely honest with your transplant program. Rolando, I wish you the best and truly am sorry this is happening to you. I suggest you go to doctor who referred you to Transplant and ask for him to evaluate you for CBD and if he deems it needed to order and re refer you. Another thought is… what’s more important, the CBD Oil or a new Liver. I wish you luck and encourage you to apply to big city programs.
He was Hispanic…..and the stereotype that hispanics are big weed users are the REAL reasons he was denied.