Can CBD show up on a drug test?
Tens of millions of employees in all sorts of industries are encountering new questions when it comes to drug testing in the workplace
Workers who use a lot of CBD (cannabidiol) for pain, anxiety, insomnia, or a host of other symptoms, can accidentally (and unfairly) fail drug tests for cannabis in certain cases, media and experts report.
“We are aware of a few reports of CBD users who have flunked a drug test,” said Dale Gieringer, co-director of California NORML.
‘We are aware of a few reports of CBD users who have flunked a drug test.’
Dale Gieringer, co-director, California NORML
In the most common workplace drug screen—a urine test—employers aren’t looking for CBD, because CBD has never been found to impair judgment or motor skills. Instead, workers fail workplace drug testing for marijuana’s main active ingredient, THC, which can exist in low amounts in some CBD products and then persist in the human body for weeks.
A CBD product’s label might misstate the amount of THC, depending on the market in which you’re shopping. State-licensed adult-use and medical cannabis stores are regulated and mandate product testing, but outside of those systems, CBD product quality can vary in a largely unregulated market. Tests of CBD products from unlicensed stores have come back positive for THC.
“It’s caveat emptor,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology for employer solutions at the nation’s biggest drug testing company, Quest Diagnostics. “The real issue is, how do you trust the labeling?”
Furthermore, if you consume enough CBD—on the order of 1,000 milligrams a day of CBD—just the residual THC could put your test results in the danger zone. This is a big deal because a failed drug test can result in the denial of loss of both job and income, and can also lead individuals to lose access to important resources like education and welfare benefits, child custody, and prescriptions for pain medication.
Can you fail a drug test for CBD oil ? Not really, but sort of
You won’t fail a drug test for CBD, but you could potentially fail a drug test for any residual THC in that CBD product.
Sample said Quest Diagnostics does not test for CBD. THC, however, is on the lengthy list of drugs they test for.
How do drug tests for cannabis work
Here’s how drug tests work. Employers collect and send off samples—largely urine—to drug testing companies who run them through a machine that can measure trace chemicals in the liquid. Technicians look for evidence of a byproduct of THC, the main active cannabinoid in cannabis — not CBD. (More rarely, employers may test saliva, hair, or blood from their employees. We’ll get to that in a minute.)
One key guideline is drug-testing rules for federal employees. A federal worker will fail a drug test if their urine tests positive for any more than a trace amount of the THC metabolite (THC-COOH). And by “trace,” we mean just 50 billionths of a gram per milliliter of urine (50 ng/ml).
THC is the most common reason a worker fails a drug test. Some 2.3% of all US drug tests came back positive for cannabis use in 2018.
Watch out for old tech
There’s also the potential that an older, not uncommon type of analytical method falsely identifies THC in a sample that only contains CBD. That method is gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry with the derivatization agent trifluoroacetic anhydride (TFAA). Tens of thousands of false positives might stem from the error annually, reporter Amanda Chicago-Lewis estimates, but at least there is some recourse—CBD users have successfully challenged a failed drug test for THC if the lab used this specific method, which can result in a false report of CBD as THC.
Why is there THC in my CBD oil?
The cannabis plant produces both THC and CBD. Medical cannabis and industrial hemp are cousins—both create dozens of similar compounds called cannabinoids.
So CBD from “federally legal” hemp can still consist of up to 0.3% THC. If you ingest very high doses of CBD—in the thousands of milligrams per day—from federally legal hemp oil, that means you may also be ingesting at least 1 mg of THC as well.
“If you’re liberal with your hemp CBD oil use, you could hypothetically test positive for THC,” said Greg Gerdeman, Ph.D., chief science officer at Colorado’s United Cannabis, makers of Prana Hemp and Prana Medicinals.
Many times, labels are just plain wrong, too. Outside of state-licensed systems, no mandatory oversight exists, said Martin Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD.
“Mislabeled CBD products proliferate outside the licensed cannabis marketplace,” Lee said. “Some CBD products labeled as ‘THC-free’ aren’t what the label says. If a CBD user tests positive for THC, either the test is inaccurate or, more likely, the no-THC product contained some THC.”
Avoid accidental THC exposure by using state-licensed and tested CBD products. Depending on the state, CBD products can be thoroughly tested and the labels are accurate. If the label says there’s no THC in there, it’s probably true.
How much CBD will make me fail a drug test?
Again, it’s not the CBD. But flunking a THC drug test because you took CBD depends on the source of your CBD, how much you took, over how long, your metabolism, and other factors like hydration levels.
Full spectrum CBD vs. broad spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolates: Consider your CBD oil’s source
A pure “isolate” of just the CBD molecule, which is commercially available, should not contain any THC. However, these isolates are extracted from hemp oil, and are of varying quality. By law, federally legal hemp oil can have up to 0.3% THC in it. Sometimes that number is higher, because of variations in test results.
Other factors that could result in failing a drug test
Beyond your CBD source, dosage, length of use, personal chemistry, and other factors determine drug test success or failure.
At one end, someone who smokes high-THC cannabis every day and then stops can still fail a drug test more than a month later. That’s because the human body stores THC in fat cells and burns it into THC-COOH later, Sample said.
At the other end, you could theoretically take CBD hemp oil for months, at low amounts (50 mg/day), and never fail a urine screen for THC-COOH. It’s not clear how much CBD hemp oil is needed—or for how long—to end up with more than 50 ng/ml of THC-COOH in your urine. But certainly, if you’re taking large amounts of CBD, depending on the source, you could test positive for THC.
“Any time THC enters the body, you have the possibility of having it stored in the fat cells and slowly released,” said Sample.
How to pass a drug test for CBD
You won’t get drug tested for CBD—you’ll be drug tested for THC. If you’re concerned for any reason, you may consider following the detoxification guidelines for THC, including discontinuing use, dieting, exercise, and staying hydrated to get trace THC out of your system.
How long does CBD stay in your system?
CBD effects last 90 minutes to several hours, depending on how it is consumed. The body turns CBD into the byproduct CBD-COOH in a matter of hours, and then it sticks around for at least several days. But it doesn’t matter, because no employer is testing for CBD-COOH.
Does CBD show up on a mouth swab test?
Mouth swabs don’t check for CBD—again, they’re checking for THC, said Sample. So no, CBD won’t show up on a standard workplace drug test mouth swab. THC will, though, so keep off large amounts of CBD with trace levels of THC.
Oral fluid testing is uncommon. In 2018, general workforce testing included over 6 million urine screens, versus just 1.3 million oral fluid tests, and 200,000 hair follicle tests.
“Almost all” of those specimens are tested for THC-COOH, Dr. Sample said.
Does CBD show up in a hair follicle test?
Stop us if you’ve heard this one, but workplace hair follicle tests are generally not checking for CBD—they’re checking for that old standby THC-COOH. So no, CBD won’t show up on a standard workplace drug test of a hair follicle. THC will, though. Any CBD you took that had trace levels of THC could leave THC byproducts in a hair follicle, where they have the potential to stick around for a while. Hair follicles can contain a months-long record of drug use, depending on the length of the hair.
Can stomach acid turn CBD into THC?
You might have read rumors online that stomach acid can turn CBD into THC. That’s possible but unlikely, according to the experts we consulted.
CBD water marketers have trumpeted this claim lately to sell CBD water over other forms of CBD, said Gerdeman at United Cannabis, which makes and sells wholesale CBD isolate.
Multiple human trials of large doses of oral CBD have never resulted in the detection of THC in the blood plasma of test subjects—so if it’s happening outside of a lab beaker, no one’s proved it. Dr. Ethan Russo debunked the stomach acid theory in Trends in Pharmacological Sciences forum article Cannabidiol Claims and Misconceptions.
At-home CBD drug testing kits
Leafly does not know of any at-home CBD drug testing kits, or why you’d take one. If you’re worried about failing a workplace drug test, you could take an at-home THC-COOH test, though accuracy varies among these products.
What’s the future of CBD drug testing?
The trend is toward less drug testing for non-safety jobs. More and more states are ending discrimination against use of THC. Federal bills like the MORE Act are following suit.
Not exactly. Rather, buildup of trace THC can hurt job prospects. So can false positives. Pass a drug test with help from this FAQ.
Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
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- Should you worry about CBD oil showing up on a drug test?
- 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.
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
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
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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