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GSBA vs. local schools on employee CBD policy
Martin Bell, CBD product expert at Lucky's Market

JUST AS our state is on the precipice of entering the hemp agriculture industry, the Georgia School Board Association is encouraging all School Boards to pass policy which would prohibit all staff from using hemp-based CBD products.

Hemp is a sustainable agriculture crop that can be used to produce CBD and hemp infused food products, along with many other environmentally safe consumables.

CBD in Georgia is grown from the hemp plant which is related to the marijuana plant, but does not contain THC. Hemp and CBD products can’t get you high.

The taxpayer-funded Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) provides information to elected School Boards about policy and law; and they lobby our elected officials who represent us in Atlanta. 

How much of our tax dollars are being spent by Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools to pay the Georgia School Board Association?  $25,775. The GSBA was successful in lobbying Governor Kemp to veto the bipartisan recess bill (HB 83) which would have allowed all Georgia children K-5 to enjoy recess at their school.

On Thursday, June 27, the GSBA sent out their monthly policy update, which focused on school employee tobacco use policies. SCCPSS has a policy called “GAN - Employee Tobacco Use,” as does every other school district across the state. It basically says you can’t smoke, use spit tobacco, e-cigarettes, or electronic nicotine delivery systems, which include vaping, while on campus or supervising students.  If employees violate the policy they can be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.  

Policies protecting children and coworkers from second-hand smoke have become a regular part of the workforce for decades now; unlike in previous decades where smoking on campus was accepted.  

The June GSBA update included a sample policy update for the Employee Tobacco Use policy which stated that for the purpose of the policy, prohibitions should include employees from “being under the influence of any controlled drug, narcotic, substance, or any mind-altering substance or intoxicant (illegal or legal), specifically any product with cannabidiol (CBD), whether hemp or cannabis and regardless of the amount of THC in the product or the extent to which it is legal or illegal under state law.”  (Bear in mind, this is recommended for the tobacco policy.)

The changes would make consuming or using all CBD products and many prescription medications a disciplinary matter with potential punishment being termination of your job

After reading the proposed additions to the policy, Rep. Ron Stephens said, “The policy has some unintended consequences.  The policy would prohibit legal use of prescription medication.”

Stephens is a pharmacist and says that the terminology ‘mood-altering’ could include mood-normalizing medications such as Prozac and Zoloft used for depression. Prescription medications to treat pain, ADD, depression, anxiety, and even some cough syrups would be included.

Daniel Zeigler, a pharmacist with independently owned Medicap Pharmacy, says the “overwhelming majority of my patients state the CBD products help.  I would rather my patients begin on CBD products versus benzodiazepines or opioids. CBD is not addictive and much safer.” 

Regarding the changes to the policy extending to prescription medications, Zeigler says, “Ridiculous. It is punishing people with mental disease from being treated in a normal society. Essentially it is discrimination against people with a mental illness.”  

Fortunately, when the policy was proposed at the SCCPSS meeting last Wednesday, both Dr. David Bringman and Dr. Dionne Hoskins-Brown had many objections to the GSBA sample changes.

“The way that I read this, being under the influence of any controlled drug means that you have consumed it, which means if a patient were to take their Percocet or their Vicodin, they are not able to work for us, they have broken this policy,” Bringman said.

How prevalent are CBD hemp-based products? According to a Gallup Poll on CBD use, 14% – about 1 in 7 – of U.S. adults personally use CBD products.  CBD can be found in capsules, oils, lotions, balms, gummies, tea, honey, caramels, soap, lip glass, bath bombs, cooking oil, and more. 

Similar to a false positive on a drug test from eating foods with poppy seeds, it is occasionally possible, but extremely rare, to have a false positive drug test from consuming large amounts of hemp based products, but you’ll never get a high from CBD products sold in Georgia.

Navigating the CBD shelves can be overwhelming, but when sold at reputable stores, help can be found.  Martin Bell is a CBD expert who works at Lucky’s Market on Abercorn. “It’s a large part of the reason that I started working at Lucky’s — I am passionate about the CBD market.” 

Michael Brubeck, CEO of the CBD Industry Association issued a statement:

“The CBDIA encourages the Georgia School Board Association to review its assessment regarding the impact of products containing cannabidiol (CBD).  It is our position that the use of CBD poses no health or safety risk to the faculty and students of Savannah Chatham County Board of Education, as even in high doses, CBD has no intoxicating effects on the mind or body... The use of CBD commonly supports the type of positive environment that the school district in Chatham County works so diligently to enhance within their schools and communities.  We welcome the Georgia School Board Association to engage the CBDIA to have an open and educational dialogue about CBD, its benefits, and discuss any risks that the Association considered when making their decision....” 

People who need medications such as the ones vilified in this policy already struggle enough from medication shaming; people giving unsolicited advice that they should take a walk in the woods, or do yoga, and that those activities would solve their anxiety, stress, insomnia and then they would not need any prescription medicine. 

These hocus-pocus theories are normalized when organizations like the GSBA come out by recommending such reprehensible changes to be hidden in the Tobacco Employee Use policy.     

The Georgia School Board Association is again taking actions that will adversely affect staff and students.  It was inexcusable for them to lobby the Governor to veto the recess bill, and it is deplorable for them to distribute a sample policy that is medically reckless and negligent to school district staff.  While we’re fortunate in Chatham County to have Dr. Bringman and Dr. Hoskins-Brown to raise concerns, there are 180 other School Boards that might not have Board members as adept at spotting policies that could cause medical harm to their faculty and staff.

Bringman will be working with SCCPSS staff to revise changes that the GSBA distributed.  The next SCCPSS meeting is Wed., Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Whitney Administrative Complex on 2 Laura Avenue.  The agenda will be posted online by the Friday before the meeting, and that is when everyone can get a look at the new language. The public is invited to speak at the meetings on any agenda topic.