A San Antonio drug counselor who was using CBD oil to help relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis is suing her former employer after she was fired from her job for failing a drug test.
Melanie Farr, 48, worked as an addiction counselor for the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, a company that offers rehabilitation programs for incarcerated individuals.
Last year, Farr began placing drops of CBD oil under her tongue to help offset the effects of MS, a debilitating lifelong condition in which the immune system attacks the body and causes nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord.
Farr told the San Antonio-Express News that the CBD oil improved her gait, eased her pain and lowered her blood pressure.
She was diagnosed with MS in 1997.
According to her lawsuit, the disease ‘renders her substantially limited in various life activities, including walking, balancing, caring for herself, and working.
‘Despite these limitations, (she) … was fully capable of performing her job.’
Drug counselor Melanie Farr alleges in a lawsuit that she was fired by her employer, Management and Training Corp., for failing a drug test. Farr said she was taking CBD oil to help with symptoms of her multiple sclerosis. She is suing under the American Disabilities Act, saying MTC did not accommodate her disability
CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol oil, is derived from cannabis, the plant that is popularly referred to as marijuana. The use of CBD oil has exploded worldwide in the wellness space, particularly over reported medical benefits
Farr says she was terminated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based company that offers rehabilitation services to incarcerated individuals
CBD oil, also known as cannabidiol oil, is derived from cannabis, the plant that is popularly referred to as marijuana.
The use of CBD oil has exploded worldwide in the wellness space, particularly over reported medical benefits.
Farr said she informed her bosses that she was using CBD oil for her condition.
‘We discussed it many, many times,’ she said.
‘I worked there a long time taking it. I’m a counselor.
‘That’s what I do. So if I was high, somebody would have said something.
‘It was clear I wasn’t high.’
CBD oil is legal nationwide, however each state has its own laws about the product depending on the amount of THC contained in the oil.
THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis and cannabis-based products that gives users the ‘high’.
In Texas, marijuana is illegal, though the state did recently pass laws that allow cannabis and hemp products to be consumed so long as they have less than 0.3 per cent THC.
Anything higher than that amount is illegal.
Farr may have consumed a CBD oil product that contained greater than 0.3 per cent THC, resulting in the failed drug test.
Last November, researchers said that a small pilot study found that vaping CBD products might lead to a positive urine test for marijuana.
The study tested people after use of cannabidiol (CBD) samples, some containing tiny amounts of THC.
One-third of those who vaped CBD-dominant cannabis had positive urine tests for THC, according to the report in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology.
WHAT IS MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS?
Multiple sclerosis (known as MS) is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body and causes nerve damage to the brain and spinal cord.
It is an incurable, lifelong condition. Symptoms can be mild in some, and in others more extreme causing severe disability.
MS affects 2.3 million people worldwide – including around 400,000 in the US, and 100,000 in the UK.
It is more than twice as common in women as it is in men. A person is usually diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.
The condition is more commonly diagnosed in people of European ancestry.
The cause isn’t clear. There may be genes associated with it, but it is not directly hereditary. Smoking and low vitamin D levels are also linked to MS.
Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty walking, vision problems, bladder problems, numbness or tingling, muscle stiffness and spasms, problems with balance and co-ordination, and problems with thinking, learning and planning.
The majority of sufferers will have episodes of symptoms which go away and come back, while some have ones which get gradually worse over time.
Symptoms can be managed with medication and therapy.
The condition shortens the average life expectancy by around five to 10 years.
The researchers hope the findings will alert users of legal CBD products to problems that could arise in drug testing, especially if they don’t know how much THC is in the products.
‘It’s a common perception that CBD is THC-free,’ said senior study author Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
‘But that’s not necessarily the case.’
The study should serve as a warning, Vandrey said, noting that ‘if the person is subject to workplace or roadside testing or testing for any criminal justice purpose, they could come up positive.’
A spokesperson for Management and Training told DailyMail.com that the company does not comment on pending litigation.
Farr began working as a licensed chemical dependency counselor for Management and Training in October 2018.
She was assigned to counsel prisoners at Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio.
Management and Training contracts with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
According to the News-Express, Farr counseled some 25 inmates in both individual and group settings.
She claims she informed her boss at the company that she was suffering from MS right after she was hired.
In 2018, President Trump signed the Farm Bill, which legalized the cultivation and sale of hemp.
Soon afterward, Farr’s primary care doctor recommended that she try CBD to ease her symptoms.
‘It helped her walk significantly better with less pain,’ according to the lawsuit.
On February 14 of last year, Farr was administered a random drug test by her employer.
Farr says she told the lab technician administering the test that she took CBD oil on doctor’s recommendations.
Farr warned the lab technician that the CBD oil could ‘trigger a false positive for THC.’
According to the lawsuit, she was told the following week that she had tested positive for marijuana.
Despite telling her supervisor that the false positive was caused by her CBD oil use, she was placed on administrative leave.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THC AND CBD
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are both derived from the cannabis plant.
Together, they are part of the cannabinoid group of compounds found in hashish, hash oil, and most strains of marijuana.
THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the euphoric, ‘high’ feeling often associated with marijuana.
THC interacts with CB1 receptors in the central nervous system and brain and creates the sensations of euphoria and anxiety.
CBD does not fit these receptors well, and actually decreases the effects of THC, and is not psychoactive.
CBD is thought to help reduce anxiety and inflammation.
Farr was told that she needed to provide a note from the doctor saying that she was prescribed CBD, according to the lawsuit.
She then forwarded a doctor’s note saying that she had been taking CBD oil for chronic pain since January 2019.
‘CBD oil does not contain THC,’ the doctor wrote in the note.
‘We will report UDS (urine drug screening) test in office as well.
‘Patient has no current history of current drug use.’
Farr then says she gave her supervisor a news article which stated that CBD oil could cause false positives for THC.
Nonetheless, Management and Training fired Farr on March 8, 2019, citing the failed drug test, according to the lawsuit.
This past February 20, Farr’s lawyer, Michael V. Galo Jr, filed a lawsuit in San Antonio federal court.
‘They should have allowed her to continue using what was an appropriate medication for her, for her condition,’ Galo said.
Management and Training is accused of unlawfully discriminating against Farr because of her disability.
The company is accused of acting with ‘malice, or reckless indifference’ toward her rights that are guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Farr is seeking unspecified sums of money for compensatory and punitive damages. She also is seeking reimbursement for lost wages and benefits.