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Cannabis 101

Will CBD Show Up on a Drug Test?

Should you be concerned about failing a drug test if you use CBD products? Here is what you need to know about drug testing and CBD.

Will CBD Make Me Fail a Drug Test?

The short answer to this question is it’s unlikely but possible. There is potential for cannabidiol (CBD) products to yield a positive result on a drug test. There have been recent cases where employees have been fired for failing a routine drug screening despite only using CBD. Keep in mind that a urinalysis, the most common type of drug test you will likely encounter, will not be searching specifically for CBD. Drug tests are designed to find traces of THC, the psychoactive chemical present in cannabis. CBD products may have traces of THC in them, which can potentially appear in the results of a drug test. However, as explained below, the chances of this happening are very slim. Generally speaking, CBD consumers should have nothing to worry about in regards to drug testing if they are using products from reputable companies.

How Much THC Is in CBD?

THC levels in CBD products are dependent on where the product is derived from. CBD products usually come from either marijuana or hemp. Both are cannabis plants that are similar to each other with the exception of their THC levels. Marijuana can have high levels of THC while hemp can’t have more than 0.3 percent according to FDA regulations.

Most CBD products are derived from hemp. This means that they should have a negligible amount of THC in them. Most urine tests will only get a positive result if THC levels are at 50 ng/ml or above. This means most CBD products will not get you anywhere close to having detectable THC levels in your body. However, the discrepancies between state and federal laws has created some problems. Some states allow medical CBD to have more than 0.3 percent THC. For example, Georgia and Florida allow some prescription products to have up to five percent. This would certainly be enough THC to be detectable on a drug test. CBD products also lack strong regulation in the marketplace. This has resulted in products having incorrect THC levels on their labels. A study on different products on the market found that some CBD products can have THC levels as high as 6.43 mg/mL. This mislabeling caused harm to Douglas Horn, a truck driver who was fired from his job after testing positive for THC. He has filed a lawsuit against the CBD manufacturer, alleging that their claim of their product having zero THC was misleading. The lawsuit claims that the product caused Horn to give a urine sample that had a THC level of 29 nanograms per millimeter. That is twice the amount necessary to trigger a positive reading. In addition, many products also have a lower CBD concentration than what their label indicates. This means that consumers may not be getting the clinical benefits they are looking for. It is important to thoroughly research any products you are using.

It’s important to note how long THC can remain in the body. There are numerous factors that go into how long the body can retain the chemical, such as frequency of consumption, metabolism, and the amount of body fat that an individual has. One study has found traces of THC as far as 90 days past consumption. As previously stated, most CBD products do not contain enough THC for it to be detected. You would have to consume a large amount of a product over a short period of time (such as multiple bottles of gummies or oil over the course of three or four days) for the possibility to get a positive reading on a drug test. You would likely need 1,000 milligrams of CBD to get a reading on a test. A typical dose for CBD oil or a capsule would be around 25 to 50 milligrams. This would mean the average intake of a casual consumer would be around 100 to 200 milligrams.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Does CBD Show Up in a Blood Test?

Just like a urine test, a blood test is specifically looking for THC. CBD use is very unlikely to cause a positive reading on a blood test since THC does not stay in the bloodstream for very long. Blood tests are typically used at the scene of an accident or when investigating a DUI since they are more effective at finding substances at that moment. A study found that frequent and heavy cannabis users would likely not get positive results beyond a week (Out of 25 chronic users, only 6 had positive blood test results on the seventh day of abstinence.) This would mean that failing a blood test from using CBD is virtually impossible. 

How CBD Can Cause You to Fail a Drug Test

Here are some specific conditions where using CBD can lead to a positive reading on a drug test.

  • Using a product with THC. This is the most common reason for triggering a positive response. You may be using a low-quality product that has THC present. Keep in mind that mislabeling is a potential problem. A CBD oil claiming to be THC-free may very well be derived from marijuana.
  • Cross-contamination in manufacturing. There is potential that THC from the material that CBD is derived from could get into the product. The most likely scenario for this to occur would be seen in a CBD oil that is manufactured in a location that also handles cannabis, such as a dispensary.
  • CBD breaking down into THC in the body. The potential for this to occur is still being debated, but it’s worth considering. A study in 2016 found that CBD could break down into THC when exposed to the acidic environment of sodium dodecyl sulfate. This substance would be comparable to the gastric acids found in the stomach. However, another study in 2017 disputes this finding. The conversion of CBD to THC has not been seen in an in vivo environment. It has only occurred in an artificial setting that does not match the same exact physiological settings of the human stomach.

How to Avoid Failing a Drug Test With CBD

Here are some protective measures you can take to ensure that your CBD does not get you in trouble when you are tested.

  • Research your product: Be sure to investigate whether the product you are using is derived from hemp or marijuana. Look up if it is a CBD isolate (pure CBD with no THC) or full-spectrum CBD (which has THC along with all the compounds found in a cannabis plant). If this information is not easy to find, this may be a sign of a dubious product from an unreliable manufacturer.
  • Ask about how the product is processed: If possible, reach out to the manufacturer about their production process. Be sure to inquire about the possibility of cross-contamination.
  • Look for a Certificate of Analysis: It is best to use products that come with a COA. These are documents that identify levels of THC and CBD as well as other compounds that a manufacturer has found from testing. Keep in mind that CBD is not regulated by the FDA. Because of this, COAs are not required, and they are not verified by independent experts. However, they are the most reliable source of information for now. A reputable company is more likely to have them.
  • Drug test yourself at home: You can purchase your own home screening test. This is helpful if you are in a position where you are subjected to random drug tests. You can see if your CBD triggers a positive reading and stop using it if it does.

Related: Your Questions About Marijuana Law Answered

Do Any Organizations Ban CBD?

Here is a look at some specific professional organizations and their stance on CBD use in regards to drug testing. Keep in mind that most policies are specifically for THC and synthetic cannabinoids rather than CBD. However, cannabidiol is typically categorized with these substances.

CBD in the Military

Despite recent laws allowing the use of CBD, members of the armed services should be hesitant about any use of cannabidiol products. The Department of Defense officially recommends that members of the military should not use CBD since it can contain THC and could lead to a positive drug test. Each branch of the military has their own policy regarding the use of hemp-based products.

  • Army: Soldiers are prohibited from using hemp or any product derived from hemp.
  • Air Force: The use of any product containing or derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil is prohibited.
  • Navy: Any item containing THC is banned.
  • Coast Guard: The use of any item made from hemp seed oil is prohibited, unless it is a food item approved by the FDA.
  • Marines: There is currently no explicit ban in place for hemp products. However, according to an interview with Patricia Deuster, a professor in the Department of Military and Emergency Medicine at Uniformed Services University, servicemembers that take CBD are at risk of failing a drug test.

It may be best to avoid CBD altogether if you are in the military. According to Deuster, there were over 100 medical incidents reported on military bases in 2018 that were related to CBD.

CBD in Sports

In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed cannabidiol from their list of banned substances. It should be noted that there is still a warning in place about CBD containing THC, which is still banned. Here is a look at various sports organizations and their policies regarding CBD.

  • NCAA: The NCAA has cannabinoids on their list of banned substances for 2019-20. They specifically mention marijuana, THC, and synthetic cannabinoids. While CBD is not specifically mentioned, the organization does state that any substance related to those listed are also banned. In 2019, the NCAA increased their THC testing threshold to 35 nanograms per millimeter. It had previously been at 15 nanograms per millimeter.
  • NFL: According to the drug policy in the NFL, marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids are banned. CBD is banned as it is considered a product of cannabis.
  • NBA: According to the collective bargaining agreement established in 2017, marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids are banned substances. This would likely include CBD as well since the league does randomly test for THC four times throughout the season.
  • MLB: Major League Baseball is actually pretty lenient in regards to products with THC. The drug policy for MLB is more focused on performance-enhancing drugs. There is no real ban on CBD and failing a drug test for THC will probably only result in a fine.
  • NHL: According to a conversation with a representative for the NHL Players Association, marijuana is not on the list of banned substances. While the league does not condone marijuana, the drug policy is more focused on performance-enhancing drugs. Failing a drug test for THC may lead to an individual review to see if there are any problems, but there is generally no real punishment to a player. It is safe to say that CBD is ok in the NHL.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

What to Do If You Fail a Drug Test

You have found yourself in the worst-case scenario; you use CBD and you have failed a drug test for work. You may have options to protect yourself from any repercussions. However, this would be dependent on the terms of your employment. Most people have at-will employment, which means your employer can fire you for any legal reason, or even no reason at all. This could mean that you may be fired on the spot for your test results. If you have not been immediately terminated, here are some things you can do.

  • Talk to your employer: You may have some luck explaining to your boss how you got a positive test result. If they are unfamiliar with CBD, bring in your product and explain the substance to them. Be sure to mention that it is legal and that it does not have the same effect as marijuana. If CBD was recommended to you by a doctor, it can help if you bring in some type of documentation for this.
  • Talk to your HR department: You may some protections with your state disability laws or the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to attorney Thomas J. Simeone, the ADA generally requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. “If the employee’s medical condition is considered a disability and the usage of CBD is considered a reasonable accommodation, the ADA may prevent termination,” says Simeone. Be aware that laws vary state by state.
  • Request a retest: This is not the most likely scenario to occur, but you may be able to make an argument that there was a lab error in testing your sample. Inquire if it is possible to submit another sample. If you are allowed to do this, be sure to stop using any CBD that may have triggered the previous test.

Knowing where your product comes from is the main protective measure you can take to avoid having your CBD cause you trouble with a drug test. As long as you stick with reputable products and don’t excessively consume them, you should not have any worries if your employer requests a test. However, if you have a job that requires you to operate a vehicle, or if you are in the military, you may want to avoid using CBD. Laws around hemp and cannabidiol are changing fast and frequently. As more laws and regulations are put in place, you can expect the industry around CBD to become more transparent about their products. This will benefit consumers as they will have more information on CBD items on the market.


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