CHARLOTTE — It is a tea advertised to detox your body, improve your mood and help with weight management. Several women told Channel 9 they saw social media ads for it and decided to give it a try, but they claim drinking it ultimately led to them being fired from their jobs.
Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos spent months investigating what’s in the tea and talking to women, including some who’ve taken their complaints to court.
‘HR took my badge and I’m in tears’
Total Life Changes (TLC) is a company that sells various vitamins and supplements for weight loss, hair and skin care and increased energy.
But three women told Channel 9 that after drinking the company’s raspberry lemonade tea, they failed drug tests required for their jobs -- testing positive for THC, the chemical found in marijuana.
(Click on the photo of each woman below to listen to what they said to Channel 9′s Allison Latos)
D’etta Friday is a mother of two in Hickory. She contacted Channel 9 after she said an effort to get healthy left her unemployed.
“I’m a Type 2 Diabetic and I was looking for a way to drop my A1C level,” Friday said.
Last July, after seeing social media ads and hearing from a friend who was selling TLC products, she purchased the company’s Raspberry Lemonade Iaso tea.
She said she followed the directions, drinking a sachet daily. A few weeks later, Friday was injured at her manufacturing job. As part of her worker’s comp claim, she had to undergo a drug test.
The lab called with the results.
“She was like, ‘How long have you been using marijuana?’ And I said, ‘What? Marijuana? No, I don’t do drugs,’” Friday said.
Friday said she is certain there wasn’t anything else she could have taken that could have caused her to fail the drug test.
“I’m an advocate,” Friday said. “I’m in minister classes. I’m writing a book, I’m doing all of this positive stuff in my community.”
(WATCH: D’etta Friday breaks down what went through her head when she got her results back)
Friday blames the TLC Raspberry Lemonade Iaso tea for her failed drug test and said she tried to explain her situation to her boss.
“I told him it says ‘0.0 THC.’ This is what I’ve been taking,” Friday said. “I do not do drugs. They escorted me to HR and HR took my badge and I’m in tears.”
She was fired, and she’s not the only person who claims the tea cost them a job.
‘I feel bamboozled ... embarrassed.’
Belinda Granger is a nurse in Florida. She said she started drinking the TLC Raspberry Lemonade Iaso tea on her weight loss journey in January 2020. She liked it so much she became a distributor.
But last October when she applied for a new nursing job, Granger said she was shocked to learn she failed the required drug test.
“I was clueless, devastated and of course I was questioning, ‘Are you sure you have the right person?,’” Granger said.
(WATCH: Belinda Granger says she was “devastated” after receiving her drug test results)
Granger said she has never used marijuana and added she’s never smoked a cigarette and doesn’t drink either.
“I sent out emails to the company and no response,” Granger said. “I called the company representative line. They made me feel as though I did something wrong. I feel bamboozled. I feel embarrassed. I feel I have a knock to my integrity that I was so prideful of.”
‘I felt like the whole room was closing in’
Marilyn Williams wanted to lose weight and all the gyms were closed because of COVID-19.
Scrolling on social media, Williams came across posts for the Raspberry Lemonade Iaso tea. It was advertised to slim, soothe and detox so she reached out to one of the sellers.
“She suggested the raspberry tea because I was subject to drug tests and it had 0% THC,” Williams said. “I was really skeptical in the beginning because I have to be very careful with what I consume because of my job.”
Williams’ job in the nuclear industry in Minnesota required federal clearance. Four days after she started drinking the tea, Williams said she was called for a random drug test.
The phone call came with the results a few days later.
“He asked me when was the last time I smoked marijuana,” Williams said. “I said 20 to 21 years ago. I felt like the whole room was closing in. I was in shock. Total shock.”
She said she did not take anything else that could have caused her to fail the drug test. Williams was fired immediately and lost her federal clearance, too.
“I ended up going and buying at-home test kits,” Williams said. “I tested the tea and sure enough, the tea came up positive.”
(WATCH: Marilyn Williams explains why she believes it was the tea that caused her to fail the drug test)
Channel 9 puts tea to the test
Hemp-derived products are legal if they have less than 0.3% THC. The packaging for TLC’s Raspberry Lemonade Iaso tea states it contains “hemp extract” but 0.0% THC.
Channel 9 took two samples for testing to Avazyme Incorporated, a lab in Durham. CEO Dr. Volker Bornemann showed us the equipment they use to identify molecules in a substance and search for THC.
Bornemann said that in both samples, they found trace amounts of THC -- the ingredient in marijuana that produces a feeling of being high.
He said one sample measured at 8.2 parts per million and the other showed 17.3, which is a low amount but it is “exact and measurable.”
Channel 9′s Allison Latos asked if those amounts were enough for someone to fail a drug test, and he said, “Potentially, yes.”
Bornemann said with repeated consumption of the tea, THC metabolites could build up in a person’s system.
Channel 9 contacted Total Life Changes over a week ago about the women’s claims that they failed drug tests and we told them the independent lab detected THC. We also asked for an interview.
Instead, the company’s director of public relations emailed us the following:
“We are aware of the allegations about one of our tea products. At TLC, we care deeply about our customers and are committed to their well-being. We are in the process of learning more about the relevant facts, but are not in a position to report more fully at this time.”
‘It is not worth your integrity’
“It took me well over a month and a half to pass an at-home drug test,” Granger said.
Granger, who had sold TLC products for 10 months, said she stopped selling them immediately after that positive drug test.
Her health journey now is fueled by her own hard work.
“It is not worth your integrity,” Granger said. “If you want to lose weight, do it the right way.”
“I lost my health insurance, I lost my 401K, I emptied that out to survive,” Friday said. “I’m a fighter and when it comes to my name, I’m going to fight.”
Friday is now taking her fight to court. She’s a plaintiff in one of three class-action lawsuits Channel 9 has uncovered. Kate Hollist is her attorney.
“These are blue-collar, salt of the earth people,” Hollist said. “These are people who are good workers and family and community members who are not drug users. We don’t know yet the full scope of this problem. Whether it is restricted to a few batches or if it is widespread and every single bag is contaminated.”
Williams is still unemployed and is now fighting TLC in court as a plaintiff in a Minnesota class-action lawsuit.
“It has destroyed her life in significant ways,” Williams’ attorney Matt Morgan said. “And it is based on those representations that this happened. So, that’s what the lawsuit is seeking to accomplish -- to hold the company accountable.”
Channel 9 found TLC’s website is still advertising the Raspberry Lemonade tea, but it no longer states “0.0% THC.” In addition, the product description now contains this added line: “We do not recommend use if you are subject to drug testing.”
Friday and Granger said TLC caused them to lose more than just weight.
“You’re calling it TLC, you got the name right,” Friday said. “This has ‘Totally Changed my Life’ and it’s not for the good.”
Another plaintiff joined the class action lawsuit with Friday. That person is a flight attendant from Virginia who said she lost her job too after using the tea and failing a drug test.
Total Life Changes filed a motion to dismiss in Williams’ class action lawsuit.