With the legalization of hemp-derived CBD, you might think that you’re in the clear when it comes to a drug test.
After all, CBD is now legal, and when it’s derived from hemp plants, CBD is not supposed to have more than 0.3% THC. That’s nothing, right? And, it’s not like you’re getting high, either. You’re using CBD for something innocuous like knee pain, insomnia, or Sunday night stress.
The FDA has even approved a pharmaceutical drug for pediatric epilepsy that contains CBD, so it’s natural to assume that you can take CBD at your leisure without any repercussions. But, if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard horror stories about CBD users failing a urine drug test even though they’re not drug users. What gives?
The good news is that CBD oil shouldn’t show up on a drug test. The bad news is that it sometimes does, and for reasons that you might not expect.
This article will explain how and why that happens and give you guidelines to avoid a false positive.
Sometimes. The truth is that even though CBD oil from hemp is not supposed to have THC, there are times when it’s in the product, and the concentrations could be higher than you’d like.
Whether or not your CBD products contain THC will depend, in part, on whether you are using a full or broad-spectrum CBD or a CBD isolate. There are also some other situations in which CBD oil can contain THC. This situation can happen if you are buying a CBD product that’s derived from marijuana, not hemp.
Per the FDA, hemp-derived CBD can contain up to 0.3 percent THC. In most cases, this isn’t enough to show up as a positive on a drug test, but it can still happen. Because THC is fat-soluble, it can build up in the system over time, and it takes longer to exit the body. Chronic and heavy users can test positive for several days, if not weeks after their last use.
The discrepancy about how much THC a CBD oil occurs when companies aren’t precise with their manufacturing or extraction processes.
To understand how this can affect a drug test, it helps to have some background about how CBD products are made. CBD can come in a variety of forms, including oils, isolates, and edibles. When the CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, there are a lot of variables that can influence how much (if any) of the THC is removed.
Sometimes, THC is left in the product on purpose, as is the case with full-spectrum CBD. However, it’s not unusual for more THC to be left over as a residual than was intended by the manufacturer.
For example, though legal CBD is supposed to come from a hemp plant with negligible amounts of THC, there are times when the hemp plants are unintentionally crossbred with marijuana plants. The resulting plants can have high amounts of THC. If the crop isn’t tested in a clinical lab before processing, then it can affect the overall THC content.
There’s also the challenge of removing THC during the extraction process. For CBD to be consumable, it has to be isolated from the plant. There are numerous ways to extract CBD, and there’s a lot of room for human and mechanical error. And, since these processes are still new, there can be a learning curve.
While lab testing each batch can potentially ensure that the THC content is accurate, there’s also the issue of whether the labs are reliable. Currently, there’s a long waiting list for labs, and turnaround times are growing. New hemp testing labs are cropping up weekly, and it can be challenging to determine which ones are skilled and experienced, and which ones might do quality work.
Also, because the FDA has its hands full and CBD products are popping up everywhere, regulation is lax. This means that it’s not unusual for CBD products to contain more THC than the label specifies. When this happens, you might be consuming high amounts of THC without even knowing it. As a result, you could easily end up with a positive drug test.
The half-life of CBD varies, and how long it stays in your system depends on a variety of factors, including your dosage, frequency of use, and body composition. Generally speaking, though, you can expect CBD to remain in your system for at least three days and up to one week.
However, drug tests aren’t typically looking for CBD. Instead, they’re looking for the THC compound, so the better question to ask is how long THC stays in the body and whether it can be detected during drug testing.
The timeframe varies widely and can range from three days to 30 days. The habits of the user, as well as the type of test administered, will influence the detection window. For example, a hair test will be able to detect the presence of THC compounds longer than a saliva test would. Also, a test with a lower detection threshold is more likely to cause someone to fail.
There are numerous variables, and even your genetics can play a part in how fast you metabolize CBD.
Here’s a summary of all the factors that can speed up or slow down the CBD metabolization window:
It’s important to note that the drug tests aren’t testing for CBD. There is no CBD oil drug test. The World Health Organization has gone on record saying that CBD causes neither physical or mental impairment. Further, after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD is not regulated by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). Instead, CBD falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration.
What these drugs tests are looking for is explicitly THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). As a reminder, this is the cannabinoid found in marijuana plants that makes people “high” or “stoned.” As marijuana has become legal in a growing number of states, there have been a lot of questions about whether companies and government organizations should still administer drug tests looking for THC.
On the one hand, employers want to keep their pool of talent as large as possible, which makes them hesitant to rule out qualified candidates simply because they test positive for THC. Still, some manufacturing and public service jobs require peak, unimpaired physical and mental performance. Careers in the medical profession, the transportation industry, and safety sectors are likely to continue testing for the foreseeable future.
Depending on who is administering the test and what the intended use is, the test method is bound to vary. Employers may opt for a urine test, while a probation officer might prefer the speed of a saliva test, for example. The most common drug testing methods are:
Urine tests are often the standard for drug tests, particularly in a pre-employment drug screening. The biggest determinant of whether there will a positive drug test result depends on the frequency of use. For infrequent users, THC can be detectable in the system for up to five days. Habitual, chronic users, especially those with higher body fat composition, can keep THC in their body for up to 30 days.
The potential for a positive urine drug test also depends on the sensitivity of the test. There are different cut-off points for concentrations. Some are 20 ng/ml, and others are 50 ng/ml. When the cut-off points are 50 ng/ml, occasional users are less likely to show positive. The chances are even lower if you’re taking CBD products with trace amounts of THC.
Another variable is whether the testing is being done for THC or the metabolites of the compound. Metabolites have a longer detection period, increasing the chance of a positive test result.
Hair tests are administered on recent hair growth, and the detection period is about 90 days. This drug test looks for the metabolites, not the actual compound, making it a more sensitive test. Typically, the hair sample is 1.5 inches, which provides a loophole for people with shorter hair. If the person being tested has hair shorter than 1.5 inches, then the detection window will logically be briefer.
Saliva testing has the shortest detection window as the compounds exit the system most quickly in saliva. However, saliva drug tests also have the most sensitive detection levels at 0.5 ng/ml. The compounds (not the metabolites) can be detected in a drug test for about 72 hours after usage.
Infrequent users can expect a positive drug test result for up to 24 hours after use, and heavier users can still test positive for up to seven days. Blood tests are rarely given, mostly because they are invasive. They can also be more difficult to administer. You’re not likely to undergo a blood test for employment, but you may have to take this type of test if you’re involved in a DUI or auto accident.
It’s worth repeating and emphasizing that these testing methods are looking for THC, not CBD. If your CBD products don’t contain THC, then you should theoretically pass a drug test with flying colors. However, these guidelines are not intended to substitute for medical advice. Please consult with a physician if you have concerns about passing a drug test.
If you are concerned about what the outcome of your drug test might be, you could try an at-home drug screening kit. This test would be helpful, especially if you plan on using CBD long-term for health purposes. It seems drastically unfair to be penalized and fail a drug test when you’re not doing anything illegal.
Even if you’re not knowingly or intentionally consuming THC, there’s still a chance you could end up with a false positive on your drug test. The following circumstances could cause you to fail a drug screening:
1) Mislabeled Products – Without strict regulation by the FDA, CBD products have a reputation for being mislabeled. A clinical study done by the University of Pennsylvania found that one in five CBD oil products contained enough THC to cause impairment and also cause someone to fail a drug test.
To add insult to injury, this study also found that the vast majority of CBD products didn’t contain the amount of CBD advertised. In some cases, more was present. In other cases, there was less CBD than what the label specified. Only 30% of the CBD oils examined contained CBD levels within 10% of what they claimed.
2) Digestive Stomach Acids – Even if your CBD products contain 0% THC, there’s a theoretical possibility that your stomach acid can convert CBD into THC compound (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol). However, this phenomenon has only been observed in laboratory conditions, not a clinical trial.
3) Secondhand THC Exposure – Even if you use former President Bill Clinton’s argument that you “didn’t inhale,” you can still be positive on a drug test if you’re in an environment where someone is smoking or vaping CBD or THC. However, the test would likely need to be performed immediately after exposure to yield a positive result.
4) Low-Quality Tinctures – If you’re not careful about which company you buy your CBD products from, you could end up with THC in your system. Lower quality tinctures might not go through the advanced refining process that higher quality products do. As a result, more of the THC compound from the plants can be left over as a residual.
5) Your CBD Products Contains CBN – Hemp plants contain significant concentrations of the cannabinoid, CBN (cannabinol). Though CBN is non-psychoactive, it is used in some FDA-approved natural sleep aids, and it can be picked up on some (but not all) drug tests.
6) You’re Taking Full-Spectrum CBD – Unlike a CBD isolate, which is pure CBD, full-spectrum CBD contains all the other parts of the hemp plants, including cannabinoids like THC, as well as terpenes, flavonoids, and vitamins. Even the small amounts of THC present in a full-spectrum CBD product can cause you to fail a drug test.
The best advice is to know what you’re taking and weigh the risk versus the benefits. The only way to be sure that you’re not ingesting any THC is to use CBD products that are pure. CBD isolates are more than 99% pure and are guaranteed not to contain any THC. Before you buy, make sure you check the label and read the lab results from each batch to ensure that there’s no THC in your CBD.
As a disclaimer, the information presented in this article is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or legal advice. Please consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions.
It seems unfair that individuals would be punished for using a natural CBD product to relieve pain, reduce anxiety, or get better sleep. Though drug testing is becoming less prevalent, it’s likely going to be around for several more decades, especially for public safety-related professions.
The best way to avoid a drug test fail is by taking pure CBD products, such as a CBD isolate oil. A CBD isolate has all of the THC and other cannabinoids removed. What you’re left with is pure CBD with lab-tested purity levels of more than 99%.
Given that many companies are unscrupulous and not transparent about the origin of their CBD oil, it makes sense to opt for purity whenever possible. Until the FDA broadens its regulatory scope and addresses the safety issues that are causing so much concern, it’s up to the buyer to protect themselves.
When buying CBD products that can help you avoid a fail, look for companies that publish their lab results, and disclose the origin of their plants. By reviewing the lab results, you can be reasonably sure that your CBD products are pure and won’t jeopardize your test results.