The Oneida County Labor Relations and Employee Services committee (LRES) on Thursday, Oct. 31, approved an advisory for county employees regarding the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil.
County human resources director Lisa Charbarneau said the matter came up as the result of an employee’s question about the use of CBD oil.
She said there is a county policy regarding testing positive for marijuana use, but she consulted with Oneida County corporation counsel Brian Desmond on CBD oil use.
“I looked to my colleagues, Brian looked to his and the employee — who happens to be a department head — looked to their colleagues and we came up with some examples,” Charbarneau said of different policies or advisories used to address the use of CBD oil.
“Basically what it says is employees are put on notice that if they are using CBD oil and they have a positive drug test for THC that’s above the limit, there could be repercussions,” Charbarneau said.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is essentially considered the active ingredient of marijuana; .3% is the legal limit for THC in CBD oils.
“CBD oil is supposedly ... it has below the legal limit of THC,” Charbarneau said. “My question to Brian Desmond was ‘If it’s illegal to sell the stuff if it has a higher level than that, how can it be out there?’”
She said his response was law enforcement has more important things to do “than go and test CBD oil in every pop-up store that exists.”
“It’s low on the totem pole, so to speak,” Charbarneau said. “And they’re advertising it as being in compliance.”
Committee member Scott Holewinski asked if a county employee would be in trouble if they were to test positive and over the .3%.
“Just like if they smoked marijuana,” he said.
Committee chairman Ted Cushing used as an example one of the county’s drivers in its highway department.
“If he uses it (CBD oil) and comes in for his checkup test and it showed his THC was up, he’d be done,” he said.
“And there has been guys who’ve lost their job over that kind of stuff,” Holewinski said.
He then asked Charbarneau what it was she was asking for with the advisory.
“Don’t we have a policy?” Holewinski asked.
“No,” Charbarneau said. “We do not.”
“Just because it’s an oil?” Holewinski inquired.
Charbarneau said because CBD oil isn’t regulated very well “there is a chance that employees could have a positive drug test.”
“And it’s a legal substance now,” she said. “As long as it doesn’t have above the .3% of the THC in it.”
However, Charbarneau said there are places that sell CBD oil containing above the legal limit of THC.
“So, employees have to know that if they’re using it, there is a risk and there could be repercussions,” she said.
On other matters, the committee:
• Heard an update from Charbarneau regarding an 8% health insurance increase for 2020. The impact for employees, Charbarneau said, would be, depending on plan chosen, $2 to $20. The county’s cost to cover the increase, if it was ultimately decided to go that route, is $287,000. County employees would be paying in a total of $32,000. Committee member and Oneida County board chairman Dave Hintz said going into recent budget hearings, there was a health insurance proposal that would have “a significant impact”on employees.
“Then, we talked it through and got it down to a mild to moderate impact,” he said. The committee voted 4-1, with committee member Billy Fried dissenting, to send the insurance proposal to the county board.
• Sent three 2020 budget oriented resolutions to the county board, including one for implementation of the Carlson Dettmann wage study the county has undergone the past several months.
The cost to the county to act on the recommendations as presented is $312,700. The second resolution going to the county board is for a general increase in wages of 2% in 2020 and the third resolution would increase the hours paid for county social service workers to 2,080 hours a year from 1,950 hours.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at [email protected]