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Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?

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  1. Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
  2. Is there such a thing as a CBD oil drug test?

Cannabidiol (CBD) has recently surged into the therapeutic spotlight for its perceived anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, pain-relieving, and seizure-suppressing properties. It can be found in health and wellness aisles across the world — perhaps even at your local Walgreens or CVS — and comes in many forms, some of which include CBD oil, tinctures, edibles, elixirs, and more.

CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, which some say provides the benefit of relaxation without the high that THC provides.

Although hemp-derived CBD products are available in states where recreational cannabis isn’t legal, some people might worry whether their use of CBD oil will show up on a drug test. Even in states where it is legal to buy THC-heavy cannabis from a retail store, some employers still screen employees for cannabis use. It’s a valid concern considering that even CBD products derived from hemp are legally permitted to contain traces of THC, 0.3% or less to be exact, perhaps leaving some consumers to wonder whether there’s a small amount of THC in their CBD oil — and whether that will show up on a drug test.

“I think that people who are afraid of testing positive should use isolate that is third-party tested to have no THC or extremely minute trace amounts that result in no THC. That’s the simple and safest thing,” said Dr. Joseph J. Morgan, Professor of Cannabis Education at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and medical adviser.

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CBD is a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis, which provides the benefit of relaxation without experiencing the high that THC provides. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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While there are certain CBD products, such as distillate and crystalline, that contain zero THC, the fears of inexperienced consumers may still persist. Like most things in the constantly evolving cannabis space, there are a number of factors to consider.

Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?

In most cases, it’s highly unlikely that CBD oil will show up on a drug test. Most employment drug tests specifically look for the presence of THC or THC metabolites. Most employers abide by the guidelines set forth by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA), which includes detection for THC but not CBD.

But what if your CBD oil contains small traces of THC? Many top CBD manufacturers have products with no presence of THC. Although hemp-derived CBD products are legally allowed to contain a maximum of 0.3% THC, some prospective consumers may still be reluctant to try CBD that contains even a small amount of THC. Thankfully, there are ways to create hemp-derived CBD products without any hint of the intoxicating cannabis compound.

For instance, producers can isolate CBD compounds after the oil is extracted from the stalks and seeds from hemp plants. This process leads to pure CBD, effectively eliminating any THC and other plant-based constituents from the end product. Once isolated, the CBD can be mixed with liquid oils that contain fatty acids to improve absorption.

But how can you tell how much THC, if any, might reside inside your CBD oil? Can you really trust everything the label on the side of the bottle? The safest bet is to look for well-known CBD products that are independently tested.

“Buy from reputable forms that are third-party tested that have batch numbers, lot numbers, and retained batch samples. If they claim that either that their plants are genetically engineered for no THC or they use methods that purge THC, to make sure that that’s third-party validated,” Morgan said.

While it’s possible that small amounts of THC that exist within a CBD product could accumulate and show up in a drug test, it’s still highly unlikely. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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There are also different types of drug tests that can be used, all of which present different detection thresholds. For instance, a hair test is made to detect habitual substance use, so it will probably not raise any red flags even if you are consuming CBD oil that has low levels of THC.

Urine and oral drug screenings have a lower threshold for detection, so there is slightly more risk with these tests, according to a December 2018 article published in Vice. While it’s possible that the small amounts of THC that exist within a CBD product could accumulate and show up in a drug test, it’s still highly unlikely.

Under the SAMHSA framework, the cutoff limit for the presence of THC is 50 nanograms per milliliter. Following these guidelines, if an extremely high dose of 2,000 milligrams of CBD oil that contains 0.3% THC was consumed, there’s a slim chance of receiving a “false positive” result on a urine screening.

Is there such a thing as a CBD oil drug test?

While it may be uncommon for anyone to screen for the presence of CBD, does a CBD oil drug test even exist? Technically, since CBD is a chemical that your body metabolizes, a specific test can be developed to detect it. But the average drug test will not identify any usage of CBD oil.

To obtain a CBD oil drug test, an employer or entity would have to pay a testing company an additional charge to change their testing regimen to include CBD. When you consider that this non-intoxicating compound won’t get you high or impair your ability at work, there’s really no need for a CBD oil drug test.

If you’re concerned that using CBD-infused products will cause you to fail a drug test, there are certain precautions you can take to ensure that no THC enters your system. Look for producers who create high-quality CBD products that contain zero THC, such as distillate or crystalline products.

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Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?

Not always, even though it’s legal. Here’s how to protect yourself.

The 26-year-old video producer from Reno, Nev., was shocked when a drug test he took as part of a job application came back positive for marijuana. The problem? He hadn’t used marijuana, he says. Instead, J.C., who prefers not to use his name, had taken CBD, or cannabidiol, from hemp to help with sleep and anxiety. And unlike THC, a related compound in cannabis plants, CBD can’t get you high.

“I thought I was in the clear,” J.C. says. “From everything that I had heard, CBD oil wasn’t supposed to show up on drug tests.”

CBD is going mainstream. Late last year Congress made CBD from hemp legal at the federal level. And it’s increasingly found on store shelves, now even sold in some CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens stores. An estimated 64 million people have tried CBD in the past 24 months, according to a January 2019 nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports of more than 4,000 adult Americans, using it for pain, insomnia, anxiety, and other health problems.

But as more people try it, one unexpected “side effect” could be failing an employer’s drug test, and even losing a job as a result.

Consider Bianca Thurston of Pennsylvania and Coni Hass of California. They are jointly suing Koi CBD, alleging that they failed drug tests because of the company’s CBD product; Thurston lost her job. Or Douglas Horn, a truck driver in New York who alleges that he lost his job after taking a CBD product made by Dixie (aka Dixie Elixirs).

Koi CBD told Consumer Reports in a statement about the lawsuit: “Koi prides itself on providing the highest-quality products while being a leader in the industry. We take claims regarding our products very seriously. We are investigating this matter and the allegations, which at this time, are unproven and unverified. We remain focused on continuing to carefully craft and offer a full array of beneficial cannabinoid products.”

Dixie Elixirs did not respond to a request for a comment.

So how can you fail a drug test after taking CBD? The urine test most commonly used doesn’t even look for CBD but instead a compound created by the body when it metabolizes THC, says Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, the largest administrator of drug tests in the U.S. “There isn’t going to be a laboratory analytical false positive confusing CBD with a THC metabolite.”

But Sample says that CBD products could have more THC than the label claims. CBD products from hemp sold in retail stores and online aren’t supposed contain more than 0.3 percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in marijuana that can get you high.

It’s also possible that over time, the small amounts of THC allowed in CBD products could build up in the body to detectable levels.

And while New York City recently passed a law that, starting May 10, 2020, will bar many employers from testing prospective employees for marijuana, that is still the exception, even in states that allow marijuana for medical or adult recreational use. In fact, more than half of employers test job applicants for it, says Kate Kennedy, spokesperson for the Society for Human Resource Management, an industry group. That can help companies lower costs for disability insurance and workers’ compensation. Some people who work for the federal government or military or as pilots, bus drivers, train conductors, or truck drivers are also subject to drug testing.

So if you use CBD, especially if you are applying for a job or work in a sensitive field, you should be aware of the possible need to pass a drug test. Here’s more on how to do it, as well as advice on how to avoid that problem or deal with a positive drug test because of CBD.

Mislabeled Products

CBD products often have more THC than claimed, research suggests. For example, a 2017 study in JAMA found that 18 of 84 CBD products, all purchased online, had THC levels possibly high enough to cause intoxication or impairment.

And those elevated levels might also be high enough to cause you not to pass a drug test.

That’s what Horn, the truck driver from New York, alleges happened to him after taking a product advertised to contain “zero THC.”

After losing his job because of the failed drug test, the lawsuit says Horn purchased a sample of the CBD product, had it tested, and found that, contrary to the claim, it did contain THC—enough, the lawsuit alleges, to cause a THC level in his urine of 29 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). That’s double the amount that typically triggers a positive result, says Sample at Quest Diagnostics.

Mislabeled CBD products are a growing problem for American workers, Sample believes. “It’s buyer beware,” he says. “There’s not always truth in labeling on the products.”

And he believes those high levels could be due in part to how THC levels are measured in hemp plants. While those plants are supposed to contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, that’s based on the dry weight of the plant. “But dry weight doesn’t necessarily equate to what’s in the finished product,” Sample says.

Plus, he says, in some cases that percentage is based on the weight of the whole plant, or on the weight of the buds or flowers, which tend to have more THC.

Adding to the confusion is that each state can determine how it samples and tests hemp plants for THC content, says Aline DeLucia, senior policy analyst for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. When sampling the hemp plant, “the closer you get to the flower, the higher the THC content. So some states collect the top 6 inches of the plant, while others do it differently,” DeLucia says. But “everybody is onboard that we need some kind of uniformity.”

And once CBD is turned into a “finished” product, such as an oil, a lotion, a tincture, a pill, or a vape liquid, few states dictate how those should be tested for THC, save for Oregon and soon Vermont. State agriculture departments, DeLucia says, don’t have jurisdiction over testing these products for safety.

Last, some states allow medical CBD products obtained through permitted channels to contain more than 0.3 percent THC. For example, the cutoff in Georgia and Virginia is 5 percent, Sample says, a level that is definitely high enough to cause impairment and a failed drug test.

Best bet: To increase the likelihood that a product doesn’t have more THC than claimed, look for a manufacturer that can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA, for its product. That document shows the results of a company’s testing for THC, CBD, and various contaminants. Though that testing is voluntary (except in Indiana and Utah) and the results aren’t confirmed by independent experts, for now it’s the best information available. If a store or website can’t provide you with a COA, look for another product. Read more about how CBD products are tested.

Small Amounts of THC Can Build Up

Many legitimate CBD products contain small amounts of THC. And when taken regularly over as little as four to six days, that THC can accumulate in the body, according to several studies.

That’s because THC is fat-soluble, says Norbert E. Kaminski, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University in East Lansing. So THC that isn’t immediately metabolized by the body will be stored in fat tissue. And “over time, THC and THC metabolites will be slowly released,” Kaminski says. As a result, it’s possible to test positive for THC and not pass a drug test, even after you’ve stopped taking the product.

Sample, at Quest Diagnostics, says that chronic, heavy users of marijuana could test positive even a month after they stop using it.

Best bet: Consider products that are claimed to be “CBD only” and have COAs showing that they contain zero THC. Also, you can try tracking your own THC levels with an at-home drug test, says Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, who has studied the medicinal use of CBD. If you test positive but need to be THC-free, consider taking a two- to three-week break from the product to clear THC from your system, he says.

What to Do If You Failed a Drug Test

Talk with your employer. That’s what worked for J.C., in Nevada, after he tested positive for marijuana use. Armed with documentation from his doctor that he was taking CBD to treat anxiety and insomnia, he met with company co-founder Matt Ross, chief operating officer of the Slumber Yard—a website that tracks user experiences with buying and using mattresses—and explained why he was taking it. He even took the bottle in for his employer to see.

“I wasn’t familiar with CBD at the time,” Ross says. But he and his partner appreciated that J.C. addressed the situation. “He was really talented as a video editor, and we felt comfortable enough to get past it.”

If that doesn’t work, try your company’s HR department. If your employer resists, you may be able to seek protection through the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability laws. Those laws allows people with documented needs to get exceptions, or “reasonable accommodations,” to account for their medical situation. While the ADA does not apply to marijuana—because it remains illegal on the federal level, even for medical use—it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department, says James Reidy, an attorney at Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green who focuses on drug policy issues with employers. That’s because CBD from hemp is now legal on a federal level.

If you have any documentation from a medical provider, that can help, too. And you may have more luck if you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia. Those states have passed laws providing some protection for people who use medical marijuana, potentially including CBD, Reidy says.

Other states, such as likeCalifornia, Montana, Oregon, and Washington have laws to assure that companies located in those states do not have to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people who use medical marijuana, and leave it up to each employer to decide, Reidy says. In those states, though, it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department about it if you’ve failed a drug test for marijuana after taking CBD.

Ask for a retest. If you’ve stopped taking CBD for a few weeks or longer, or took CBD infrequently, and still test positive for marijuana, consider asking for a retest. Though there are safeguards in place to prevent errors, Sample says, in rare cases they do happen.

In addition, some companies might set the threshold for THC very low to catch as many people as possible, Earleywine says. But doing so means the test can generate “some false positives, people who look as if they’ve used THC when they haven’t.”

Stop or skip using CBD products if faced with an upcoming drug test. That’s the only way to ensure that your CBD won’t trigger a positive test result for marijuana. And that includes stopping use of topical CBD lotions, oils, and cosmetic products, says Kaminski at Michigan State University. And it’s best to stop two to three weeks before the test, he adds. That should allow for enough time for any THC and THC metabolites to clear out of your system.

If you have to pass a drug test, you might want to skip taking CBD. Here’s why and how to protect yourself, with details from Consumer Reports on whether you can take CBD and pass a drug test.