Will You Fail a Drug Test After Using CBD?
Although unlikely, if you take cannabidiol (CBD), you can fail a drug test.
Drug tests are not designed to look for CBD; they are designed to look for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in marijuana that can cause you to feel high. But many CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, and that may cause a drug test to come back positive.
Recently, news reports have emerged across the country, reporting that employees have lost their jobs because of THC-positive drug screenings. These victims claim they never used THC, just CBD.
If CBD is supposed to be THC-free, why is this happening? And more importantly, what are the chances that, after consuming CBD, you'll fail a drug test?
What is CBD?
Before we dive into the legality of CBD, it’s important to understand the basics of the compound.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is found in the hemp plant, which is part of the cannabis plant family. CBD is a non-intoxicating natural compound that, in clinical research, has been shown to provide relief from conditions such as insomnia, epilepsy, chronic pain, and anxiety disorders.
Although the compound was relatively unheard of just a few short years ago, it's become increasingly popular. That's because it helps your body to increase its uptake of natural feel-good chemicals, like amandine, to reduce pain and anxiety.
CBD is non-psychoactive, unlike THC, which means that it will not cause you to experience a psychoactive high when taken. Drug tests are designed to screen for THC because, in most U.S. states, marijuana usage is illegal.
Are CBD Products Legal in the U.S.?
In 2018, the United States federal government passed the 2018 Farm Bill, altering the federal policy regarding industrial hemp. This bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, deeming the plant an agricultural product.
The bill legalized hemp and hemp-derived products as long as they maintain certain regulations, particularly regarding the amount of THC they contain. For CBD to be legal, it must contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
The Farm Bill states that all CBD products containing the appropriate percentage of THC are legal and available to be sold and purchased in the United States. Many of these products can be found in retail stores or online.
In a perfect world, all CBD products that claim to have less than 0.3 percent of THC would contain less than 0.3 percent THC. But, hey, I think we both know this isn't a perfect world.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently endorse any CBD products, except one prescription drug approved to treat rare and severe forms of epilepsy.
Because there is no FDA regulation on CBD products, companies that sell CBD can be dishonest about the ingredients found in their products, including the actual percentage of THC they contain. Companies can make misleading and false claims regarding the THC in their products and may have much more THC content than they claim.
In addition to having a higher percentage of THC in their CBD oils, gummies and vape juices, some manufacturers may not use pure CBD. A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that more than 50 people were poisoned by fake CBD products in Utah from 2017 to 2018. Laboratory testing revealed that many of the CBD products did not contain CBD, but rather a synthetic form of marijuana, often called Spice or K2.
Do your research before purchasing a CBD product to ensure that you only buy from reputable manufacturers that regularly have their products tested by independent third-party labs for their purity and actual THC content.
Why You May Fail a Drug Test After Using CBD
Because hemp was removed from the Controlled Substances Act in 2018, it is no longer considered an illegal substance under federal law. CBD is not an illegal substance, so drug tests are not designed to detect it.
Drug tests do not specifically look for cannabidiol in your urine or bloodstream. You will not fail a drug test for using CBD, but you will fail a drug test if it detects a certain level of THC.
The standard urine test looks for a compound created by the body when it metabolizes THC. The test will not confuse CBD with a THC metabolite and provide a positive result. The only thing that could cause the test to be positive is the presence of the metabolized THC compound in your body, and this could happen for a variety of reasons, including:
1. The CBD product contains THC
As mentioned earlier, some manufacturers produce and sell CBD products that contain THC. Although according to legal standards all CBD products must have less than 0.3 percent THC, some companies sell CBD products with much higher levels of THC. If you use a CBD product that has above 0.3 percent THC, you could fail a drug test.
2. Exposure to THC second hand
If you’ve ever heard of a “contact high,” you know that it's possible to experience mild effects of marijuana simply by being close to someone who is smoking in a poorly ventilated area. Research has also shown that it is possible to fail a drug test after inhaling the secondhand smoke from someone smoking weed.
But it's completely dependent on the potency of the marijuana being smoked and the area's ventilation. It is unlikely that you would fail a screening after exposure to some secondhand marijuana smoke, but it is possible.
3. Cross-contamination with THC
In some cases, CBD products can come in contact with THC during the manufacturing process and result in cross-contamination. This is more likely to happen when purchasing CBD items from a cannabis dispensary that also sells THC products.
Also, if your CBD products are around other substances that contain CBD, cross-contamination may occur.
4. CBD breaking down into THC
Some research has been done that led to false-positive test results from CBD oil that breaks down into small amounts of THC in the stomach. However, other studies have refuted this evidence. As of right now, research has not conclusively shown whether or not CBD could produce traces of THC in the body, but it is still considered theoretically possible.
Decrease Your Chances of Failing a Drug Test
Do you have a drug test coming up that you’re nervous about? Employers, doctors, and even sporting officials often require drug tests to be completed. If you do not use any of the illegal substances the tests screen for, including cocaine, opioids, marijuana, and barbiturates, you're likely safe.
Even if you use CBD regularly, you will probably pass the test with flying colors. However, as mentioned before, you will fail the test if high levels of THC are found. To prevent this from happening due to your CBD usage, consider the following:
1. When buying CBD, ask for a Certificate of Analysis (COA)
A COA is a document that shows the results of a company’s testing for THC, CBD, and other contaminants. Although the testing is only required in Indiana and Utah, most reputable manufacturers will provide you with the report on their website or in their store. If you are unable to obtain this report, you may want to look for a different product.
2. Only purchase CBD from reputable sellers
Going along with the first tip, make sure you do your research before you purchase a CBD product to ensure that it does not contain any THC. Buy from reputable sellers that regularly participate in independent third-party lab testing, use pure CBD, and list all ingredients for their products.
3. Decrease CBD usage before a test
The only absolute way to ensure that your CBD usage will not trigger a positive test result for marijuana is to stop using any CBD products for about two to three weeks before your test. This allows any potential THC or THC metabolites to clear out of your system beforehand.
4. Avoid secondhand exposure to marijuana
Because you may fail a drug test after being exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke, it is best to avoid any exposure to pot-smoking before your test.
If you have a drug test that you need to participate in and you regularly use CBD, it’s important to acknowledge that you do have the possibility of failing the test, even though it is highly unlikely. And because of the lack of regulation for CBD products, there's no guarantee that the CBD you're using doesn’t have higher levels of THC present. Because of this, you must do your research before purchasing and using CBD products, especially if you have a drug test coming up.
Have you ever had to take a drug test while using CBD products? We’d love to hear about your experience. Leave a comment below!
Jessica has been a freelance writer for four years, with a passion for science and health-related topics. She is also a lover of doing research and genuinely enjoys reading clinical studies, especially if it has anything to do with the emerging research on the health benefits of CBD. Jessica has a degree in behavioral science. She is a travel addict and an avid League of Legends player. She is also a proud dog mom to a Husky and an Australian Shepherd, so she’s frequently covered in dog fur and utterly exhausted from their constant shenanigans.