// Drug Tests for THC

By Dr. Beth Garreston, PhD

Drug Tests

With the passage of Proposition 64, California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act in 2018, millions of employers (and employees) are asking the question, “what about drug testing in the workplace?” Employees who use cannabidiol (CBD) for pain, inflammation or various other reasons can now accidentally (and unfairly) fail a drug test.

The most common form of drug testing for employees is a urine test. Employers do not look for CBD in a drug test. CBD is non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating; it does not impair judgement or prohibit motor skills, balance or stability. When you fail a drug test, it is because your employers are screening for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This cycles back to the big question when it comes to conscience consumption: what’s in my hemp product? Many companies have jumped on the “CBD only” bandwagon, marketing their products as “hemp-derived CBD with no THC.” But without regulatory oversight, many products will contain THC in minor quantities. The low levels of THC found in many “hemp CBD” products can persist in the human body for weeks, and potentially result in a failed drug test. Mislabeling of THC content in the unregulated CBD market is common, as we found in our own investigation.

Do you Trust Your CBD?

If you are a large or daily consumer of CBD, the trace amounts of THC that could be found in your hemp product can potentially cause you to fail a drug test. This is an important fact that many “hemp CBD” companies do not admit to. Potentially failing a drug test can result in the loss of your job, income, and certain prescription medications. The only way to make sure the CBD product you are using contains the specified amount of CBD with zero-to-minimal THC is to purchase through a legal, licensed cannabis dispensary.

Can You Fail a Drug Test for CBD?

No, you cannot fail a drug test for CBD alone. Drug tests are not looking for CBD. But you can fail a drug test for the small amount THC your “hemp CBD” product may contain.

How Do Urine Tests for THC Work?

When you consume cannabis, THC is released into your bloodstream. In a blood test, THC can be detectable anywhere from hours to a few days after a single consumption. Blood levels of THC will drop after a few days, but cannabis has a sneaky trait that can make urine tests a little bit trickier to manage. THC and CBD are cannabinoids, meaning that their metabolic byproducts (metabolites) are lipid-soluble. These metabolites collect in fat cells throughout the body and slowly release over time—considerably longer than the time needed for other commonly-used recreational drugs to release from fat, particularly for daily cannabis consumers. THC is converted to the metabolite 11-nor-delta9-caboxy-THC (THC-COOH) and filtered through the kidneys to be passed out in urine. A standard level of THC metabolite detection for a federal employee is 50mg/mL of THC-COOH in a urine drug test. If a sample contains more than 50mg/mL of THC-COOH, the test is a “FAIL.” But, depending on the drug test technician and the equipment being used to run the test, levels can be set anywhere between 15 ng/mL and 100 ng/mL.

SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. department of Health and Human Services that sets standards for drug testing of government employees.

Even now that you understand what the testing facility is looking for and the corresponding THC metabolites, the individual differences between the cannabis products available in the market and the consumer’s individual biochemistry makes estimating an unambiguous time frame for your personal drug testing window nearly impossible.

How Do I Pass A Drug Test?

Everyone processes cannabis at a different rate. The metabolite storage of a daily THC consumer versus a single consumer versus a daily “CBD-only” consumer will all differ, once again complicating the matter. Those consumers with a higher fat content store THC-COOH more than a leaner consumer. In addition, individual lifestyle choices add another layer to this puzzle and can cause different results according to diet, exercise, duration, and time.

Once again, drug tests are not looking for CBD, they are looking for THC. Most “quick fix” methods for removing THC from your system in a short period of time are myths. They will not work, and if your income and security are at risk, it is not worth it to try a “magic detox tea” that you bought off of Craigslist. The only way to pass a THC drug test 100% is by abstaining from consumption of both cannabis and hemp products.

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