If you’re curious about smoking cannabidiol (CBD) flower or CBD pre-rolls, one thing could be holding you back. It’s that basic question no one seems to have a straight answer for: does CBD show up on a drug test? Since most people are asking about tests for marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) when they ask this question, the answer should be a simple “no.”
Unfortunately, life isn’t that simple. In this post we’ll explain why CBD should be safe for a drug test, the few instances where it might not be and why, and what to do about it.
The Good: CBD Should Be Safe For a Drug Test
In short, CBD doesn’t show up on a drug test for THC. However, there’s a chance you may get a false positive result even if you’re only using CBD products, in part because they may have trace amounts of THC.
Because it is neither an illegal controlled substance nor intoxicating, drug tests do not screen for CBD. Even so, CBD users can still fail certain drug tests. In theory, CBD should not register on a drug test for THC. But most CBD products are classified as supplements, so they are not regulated for purity and safety in the same way as drugs and can be contaminated with THC or mislabeled.
“Cannabis sativa” is the phrase that describes both hemp plants and marijuana plants. Growers cultivate Cannabis sativa for food, construction materials, or recreational and medicinal uses.
Scientists have identified more than 400 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. Around 80 of these are biologically active, and the most important of these are the cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids occur in the cannabis plant only. Some of the more common cannabinoids include CBD and THC, but also cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabichromene (CBC).
THC is the main intoxicating, psychoactive compound in cannabis. CBD has some psychoactive effects, which is why it may be effective at treating issues such as anxiety and depression. But CBD has no intoxicating properties—only THC has those.
The difference between the two types of cannabis plants is the amount of THC present. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), products that contain more than 0.3 percent THC are derived from marijuana and are therefore illegal because marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Cannabis plants with less than 0.3 percent THC are considered hemp plants and are federally legal in the US.
THC and CBD bind to receptors in different parts of the body and brain in their own ways. Normally, these receptors attach to natural compounds that the human body produces: the endocannabinoids. However, for whatever reason a person may not produce sufficient endocannabinoids in their body to create the effects they want.
According to the research, CBD has many potential therapeutic benefits:
- anti-analgesic/pain relief
- anxiety relief
- antipsychotic treatment
- neuroprotective benefits
As far as drug tests go, most employers use either a 5-panel or 10-panel drug screen, although some go all out and use a 12 panel screen. All of these test for THC-COOH, the metabolite of THC.
The 5-panel drug screen also tests for amphetamines/methamphetamines, cocaine, opiates, and PCP. The 10-panel screen adds barbiturates, benzodiazepines, methadone, propoxyphene, and propoxyphene to that list.
Of course, the source of CBD isn’t the only thing that goes into your drug test result. Harvesting and refinement techniques can also change your CBD product’s chemical makeup.
The three most common types of CBD products are full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD products give you that entourage effect because they contain all of the natural cannabis compounds such as flavonoids and terpenes that are naturally found in the hemp plant. That includes trace amounts of THC—less than 0.3% if the product is hemp-based. If not, check the label!
Full-spectrum CBD oils and other products are more likely to result in a false positive on a drug test. That’s why third-party lab testing and access to a certificate of analysis is so important.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are similar to full-spectrum CBD products in that they include additional hemp cannabinoids and terpenes, but all of the THC has been removed. The aim with broad-spectrum products is to provide something close to a full-spectrum experience with less risk of a positive test result for THC.
Just like it sounds, CBD isolate contains just pure CBD. It can’t result in a positive test for THC, but it also can’t interact synergistically with other plant compounds. However, CBD isolate is easy to integrate into all kinds of products as it is tasteless and odorless.
The Bad: Some Users Have Reported Failing
So, can you fail a drug test for THC even though you’re just using CBD? You won’t fail a drug test for CBD because they don’t exist. But you could fail a drug test for residual THC in a CBD product.
Drug tests work like this: employers collect samples—mostly urine—and send them to drug testing companies. Technicians measure trace chemicals for evidence of the THC metabolite THC-COOH. If they screen the urine and detect a mere 50 billionths of a gram per milliliter or more, that’s a positive.
THC is the most common reason for failed drug tests in the US. In fact, about 2.8 percent of all drug tests in America came back positive for cannabis in 2018. Older tests that use a GCMS (gas-chromatography mass-spectrometry) method with an agent called TFAA may also falsely identify THC in CBD only samples.
Reasons for Failing a Drug Test with CBD
There are several common reasons a person fails a drug test after using CBD.
Using Product With THC
The most frequent reason for failing a CBD drug test is using a full-spectrum CBD product that contains trace amounts of THC. If you take very high doses of hemp products, even a test that works and is accurate might give a positive result for THC-COOH.
Hemp products can legally contain up to 0.3 percent THC, so those people who regularly consume thousands of milligrams of CBD per day are more likely to get a false-positive result. Still, even that much full-spectrum CBD is unlikely to trigger a result that surpasses the federal THC metabolite limit of 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
Cross Contamination of THC
Even if you believe you’re consuming a pure CBD product or a hemp-based CBD pre-roll, it’s possible, depending on the source, that there is cross-contamination. In these situations, trace amounts of THC present in the source plant matter might be high enough to trigger a positive drug test.
Mislabeling of Products
Along these lines, mislabeling of CBD products can be a problem—especially since it’s a bit like the Wild West in terms of the lack of regulations out there. CBD products extracted from hemp should not have more than 0.3 percent THC, but it’s not unusual for less ethical sellers to mislabel products as THC-free.
Along these lines, one researcher found that nearly 70 percent of the CBD products sold online were mislabeled and could potentially cause serious harm to consumers. Without FDA regulation, these kinds of things happen.
Unlikely Causes of Positive Tests
There are a few far-fetched false positive causes you hear about a lot: secondhand smoke and stomach acid breaking down CBD oil. Here’s the deal.
Secondhand Exposure to THC
Is it possible to test possible after inadvertent, secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke? Yes, but it is highly unlikely. There is no research supporting this as a trend.
CBD Oil Breaking Down in The Digestive System?
Can stomach acid transform CBD into THC and show up in your drug test? Also highly unlikely. It is possible that this myth arose as a marketing tool to beat down CBD oil sales, but, either way, there’s no evidence for the claim.
So What Makes You Fail a Drug Test?
Obviously, the CBD source is the most important factor here followed by length of use, dosage, the user’s genetics and chemistry, and possibly other factors such as the environment.
Anyone who uses high-THC cannabis products regularly can fail a drug test 30 days later. That’s because the body uses fat cells to store THC and burns it into THC-COOH later—how much later depends on lots of things. On the other hand, someone might use small servings (50 mg/day) of full-spectrum CBD hemp oil every day for months and never fail a drug test for THC-COOH.
So, how do you pass a drug test for CBD? You don’t. You get drug tested for THC. If you have reason to worry about drug testing for THC, there are things you can do to prepare. If you’re worried because of your CBD use, find out with a home drug test in advance.
How long does CBD stay in your system? Depending on how you consume it, CBD effects last at least 90 minutes, and up to a few hours. After a few hours, the body metabolizes CBD into the byproduct CBD-COOH, and the metabolite persists for several days at a minimum—although no one tests for that.
Researchers have also found problem products and tests that mistakenly fail. A false-positive result for THC is possible from using other drugs, including:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and sulindac
Researchers have also found that another cannabis compound, cannabinol (CBN), does interact with certain drug tests for THC. The team tested urine samples that were spiked with CBD, CBN, CBC, and CBG. They found that the CBN alone triggered false positives among the tests they examined.
Only one test registered CBN, and that’s only because the tests were immunoassays that detect drugs using antibodies. Different manufacturers use slightly different antibodies for their tests, so different results are possible.
Remember, though, the team used pure CBD, and that’s what did not trigger the tests. Actual full-spectrum CBD products are mostly unregulated.
What You Can Do to Pass Drug Tests
Many products made with CBD isolate have no THC at all in them, which should make them totally safe for passing a drug test. Of course, they’re also a less attractive option for many reasons.
To get the full benefits from CBD, it’s best to consume it in full-spectrum products. However, this is only legally safe to do from a trusted supplier.
Purchasing CBD flower, CBD pre-rolls, and other CBD products from trusted vendors that use sustainable American hemp sources can help solve this problem by allowing you to see and rely on test results that prove it is within the legal THC limit.
And, if you need more details about the nitty gritty of drug tests, read about them here.
CBD is a trendy therapeutic tool across America, and no wonder. The CBD cannabinoid has so much to offer because of its many benefits, yet it is not intoxicating. Still, it suffers from stigma due to association with THC, so many people worry about drug tests.
Rightly so—it’s your job and your life! But consuming high-quality CBD products from reputable vendors are safe for drug tests. They contain only trace amounts of THC, so unless something goes wrong, as discussed, you should be in the clear.
Theoretically, it should be impossible to get a false positive on a drug test from pure CBD flower or other CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee that it’s pure because CBD is not very well regulated. Do the research when you shop for the best CBD flower and CBD pre-rolls, and look to trusted sources for recommendations.