As the CBD trend sweeps the nation, tens of millions of employees in all sorts of industries are wondering whether CBD can make them fail a drug test. A preliminary study featured in Web MD suggests the answer is “no”–at least if the Cannabidiol used is pure, and here’s why.
What are the Different Types of CBD?
CBD comes from a family of plants called Cannabis Sativa L. Cannabis plants, according to Health Line, contain hundreds of naturally occurring components, such as cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. Their chemical composition varies based on their variety and plant strain.
While hemp products and marijuana are both derived from cannabis plants, they contain different levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Typically, marijuana plants contain THC in diverse concentrations.
The THC in marijuana is what creates the “high” linked to vaping or smoking weed. Conversely, hemp-derived products are legally required to contain, not more than 0.3% THC content.
As a result, hemp-derived CBD is less likely to have THC than marijuana-derived CBD. But plant variety is not the only factor. Refinement techniques and harvesting can also change which substances appear in CBD products.
CBD extracts are commonly labeled as one of the following types:
- Contain all of the chemical substances that occur naturally in the plant they were extracted from such as CBD, flavonoids, terpenes, and other cannabinoids like THC.
- This type of CBD is typically extracted from the marijuana subspecies which may contain varying amounts of THC.
- On the contrary, full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oil is legally required to contain less than 0.3% THC concentrations.
- Full-spectrum CBD is widely available in products like tinctures, oils, topical creams, serums, and edibles.
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers disclose the source of their full-spectrum extracts. Hence, it can be hard to evaluate just how much THC may be present in a given product.
Broad-spectrum CBD products also contain additional substances (terpenes and other cannabinoids) like full-spectrum CBD products. However, in the case of this type of CBD, all the THC is removed.
Because of this, broad-spectrum extracts are less likely to have THC than full-spectrum CBD extracts, but they are less widely available. They’re most typically sold as an oil.
- This type of CBD is pure CBD. CBD isolate does not contain additional substances from the plant it was extracted from.
- They typically come from hemp plants. Hemp-based CBD isolates should not have THC.
- CBD isolate is sometimes sold as a small, solid “slab” or a crystalline powder that can be broken apart and eaten. They are also available as tincture or oil.
How Do Drug Tests for Cannabis Work?
As determined by CannAmm, there have been around 545 identified chemical compounds found in the cannabis plants as of 2014. Thus, it would be difficult for a drug test to simply detect the heavy or casual use of the drug. Instead, oral and urine testing for cannabis have very specific goals:
In a saliva test, the donor’s saliva is being tested for THC (the drug’s main psychoactive compound), and not CBD (cannabidiol), CBC (cannabichromene), CBV (cannabivarin), or any other cannabinoids. CBD is found in most industrial hemp, and scientific evidence indicates that it does not cause impairment nor has the same psychoactive effect as THC.
Therefore, if you consume hemp seeds, for instance, which have a high CBD concentration, you will not test positive for cannabis on an oral fluid or saliva test. To test positive in this test, there must be THC in the donor’s saliva.
If a person is being tested via a 5-panel pee test, they are again being tested for the presence of the mentioned compound. But this time, urine tests detect the presence of one of cannabis’ metabolites: THC-COOH.
This means that the THC has been metabolized by the person’s body, with the metabolite being the product of that process. To pass a urine test, according to CNET, the amount of THC in the body should be below 50ng/mL.
That’s the cutoff recommended clinically by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and federally by the National Institutes of Health, which helps set industry standards for lab certifications. So while drug testing can suggest the presence of THC metabolites and certain cannabinoids like CBD in a person’s system–as it would take about 2-5 days or even weeks to flush CBD out of your system, they cannot prove how much the donor consumed, how often a donor uses it, or whether or not they ate, smoked, or vaped the drug.
Oral fluid or urine tests will, however, help identify recent use which can determine the risk of impairment within the workplace.
How Much CBD Will Make You Fail a Drug Test?
Again, it is not the CBD. But flunking a THC drug test because you took CBD depends on how much you took, the source of your CBD, your metabolism, and over how long, and other factors like hydration levels. While pure CBD isolates, for instance, do not contain any chemical compounds, they can be extracted from hemp in varying quality and the 0.3% THC limitations can get higher due to variations in test results.
Beyond the CBD source, length of use, dosage, personal chemistry, and other factors determine a drug test’s failure or success.
At one end, a person who smokes high-THC cannabis every day and then quits 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,” an expert told Leafly.
On the other end, a person can theoretically consume CBD hemp oil for months, at low amounts of 50 mg/day, and will not fail a urine test for THC-COOH. It is not clear for how long or how much CBD is needed to end up with more than 50ng/mL of THC-COOH in the donor’s urine.
Certainly, if the donor is taking large amounts of CBD, depending on the source, you could test positive for THC–since any time THC enters the system, it is likely to be stored in the fat cells and slowly released afterward.
Can You Fail a Drug Test From CBD?
Theoretically, a donor can fail a drug test if he or she consumes a CBD product that has THC in it.
In a 2019 analysis featured in Medical News Today, researchers found that 25% of 67 CBD-containing food products in Germany contained THC above the 2.5 mg/day dose associated with intoxicating side effects. Even though CBD manufacturers may disclose that they remove the THC from their products, this may not be the case.
Sometimes, the product is inappropriately labeled or has not been third-party tested, misrepresenting the actual THC dose. Donors can also receive a false-positive result for THC or cannabis on a urine drug test if they use other drugs, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as naproxen, ibuprofen, and sulindac
Another study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology revealed that people exposed to second-hand or passive cannabis smoke can test positive on an oral fluid screening. Cannabis-free participants sat in an unventilated room for several hours with five individuals who each smoked one cannabis cigarette.
The researchers identified THC in the saliva of each of the cannabis-free participants, but these amounts depleted over time spent in the room. Experts are still not sure whether exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke will create a positive saliva test outside the study environment.
Though, an old study tested whether second-hand cannabis smoke can result in a positive urine drug screen. The scientists collected 80 urine samples 24 hours after they exposed cannabis-free volunteers to second-hand cannabis smoke. Only two participants tested positive, but none tested at or above federal thresholds.
What if You Fail a Drug Test Because of Consuming CBD Products?
So, what if you declare CBD use during a drug screening and fail? It all comes down to the drug and alcohol policy of your employer. If this happens, The Spiggle Law Firm advises the following:
- Explain the situation to the employer by bringing the CBD product and how you use it.
- Employees can ask for a retest.
- If applicable, you can talk to a union representative.
- If an employee cannot sue the employer unless the drug testing is done improperly. But you can sue the CBD manufacturer or the drug-testing laboratory.
The Bottom Line
Drug tests do not screen for CBD because it is not an illegal controlled substance and it does not cause intoxicating effects. Nevertheless, consumers who use CBD may still fail a drug screening.
Products that contain CBD may have improper labeling or may be contaminated with THC. Other drugs may hinder urine drug testing results and result in a false-positive test.
Thus, individuals who want to avoid testing positive for THC or cannabis on a drug test should purchase CBD products from reliable sources that can validate that the product doesn’t contain any THC.