Will CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test?
UPDATED ON OCTOBER 12, 2019
The Difference Between CBD and THC
CBD (Cannabidiol) is one of the newest and most popular health trends and differs from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes people high. There’s a close relationship between these two compounds found both in the cannabis plant, but they are vastly different.
CBD and THC have the same chemical makeup and are much like twins. They come from the cannabis plant and also are made up of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. They are not identical twins because of the arrangement of just one compound. It’s a microscopic difference but this causes a very big difference in how our body reacts to it: THC makes you high and CBD doesn’t.
The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that interact with cannabinoids to maintain vital functions throughout our bodies. These include physiological and cognitive processes which include fertility, pregnancy, appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Cannabinoids can indirectly control these receptors and alter the way they function. There are at least 113 cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant, the most prominent of which are THC and CBD.
THC is one of many compounds that is secreted by glands of the marijuana plant. THC is the active chemical in cannabis.
The human body’s Cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in certain areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory, pleasure, coordination and time perception. THC works by attaching itself to these receptors and activating them to release dopamine. This is what causes the euphoric feeling. A person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception can all be affected by THC. THC can cause hallucinations, change thinking and cause delusions. All of these effects can last about two hours, and begin 10 to 30 minutes after ingestion. Psychomotor impairment may continue even after the high-feeling has stopped. Occasionally THC can cause side effects that are even less pleasant. These can include elation, anxiety, tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat), short-term memory recall issues, sedation, relaxation, pain relief and many more.
Will Taking CBD Make You Fail A Drug Test?
It’s possible for a person taking CBD to test positive for THC because many CBD products contain some THC. The FDA requires that hemp-derived CBD contain less than 3% THC, and many CBD products have a small percentage of THC in them. For THC to show up on a drug test, the person taking it would probably have to be taking at least 1,000 milligrams/day. Most users take 120-160 mg/day.
Another thing to consider is where the CBD comes from. CBD derived from marijuana is available at medical marijuana dispensaries, and will often have THC levels much higher than 3%, which can show up on a drug test. Hemp-derived CBD is available online and in many retail stores and is less likely to show up on a drug test.
Companies selling CBD products have a history of inaccurate labeling. Between 2015 and 2017 the FDA sent 44 warning letters to CBD companies whose labels were found to be inaccurate or misleading. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 37% of the 84 products they purchased from 31 online CBD retailers were accurately labeled. 21% of the products tested in the JAMA study were found to contain THC that didn’t appear on the label. Only legal cannabis states Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon require strict testing of CBD companies.
Because the CBD industry is unregulated, it’s important that the product you take undergoes 3rd party testing, called a certificate of analysis (COA), and we recommend that you take a CBD product with zero THC, or avoid CBD use altogether to avoid failing a drug test.
THC is fat-soluble and is absorbed along with other fats and can be stored in your fatty tissues. It’s possible for THC to accumulate in your body in as little as 4 to 6 days, and can be detectable in your body for up to 30 days, though that’s usually only with heavy cannabis users.
According to David Eades, the Vice President of Operations at DISA, a provider of employee screening and compliance services, “If you’re unsure of what’s in it, don’t take it. Many hemp or CBD products, regardless of their legality in your state, are unregulated and can contain THC which might show up on a drug test. Medical disclosure policies make employees working in a safety-sensitive position disclose their prescription drug use to the employer, helping to cover all bases for legal drug use that no tolerance policies don’t provide.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a recommended cutoff level of THC showing up in a drug test of 50 ng/mL. The only legitimate medical explanation for levels above this are prescribed use of Marinol® (an FDA approved drug for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and anorexia from AIDS), Sativex® (for the management of multiple sclerosis symptoms), or a generic equivalent. Most employers use SAMHSA-certified labs for their employee drug screening.