Drug tests identify tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or its metabolites. Although these tests do not screen for CBD, some CBD products contain low quantities of THC that could theoretically make a person fail a drug test.
CBD products derive from hemp, a federally legal low-THC type of cannabis. While some CBD products claim to contain no THC, contamination may have occurred during the manufacturing process. In some cases, the manufacturer’s labeling may be incomplete.
Keep reading to learn whether CBD shows up on a drug test.
While the findings may be a relief to some CBD users, there is a big caveat: The researchers used pure CBD. In the real world, CBD products are largely unregulated and may contain other compounds due to processing.
According to Robert Fitzgerald, a professor at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine, “It would depend on the purity of the product.”
On the positive side, he noted, immunoassays are only screening tests. They would be followed up by “confirmatory testing” that does distinguish THC from other compounds. But you could still have a problem if your cannabis product was contaminated with THC, Fitzgerald said.
Legally, Kroner noted, CBD products should only be produced from hemp plants with no more than 0.3% THC. But there’s no way for consumers to know for sure what’s in the products they buy.
A 2017 study found that about seven out of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of cannabidiol stated on the label. And about one in five contained THC.
A false-positive on a drug test could have implications for people at work, and in their medical care. For example, some health care organizations do not allow patients to start opioid painkillers if they use marijuana.
What is CBD?
Cannabis sativa is an extremely versatile plant that growers cultivate for numerous purposes, ranging from food, such as hemp seed, hemp-based construction materials, and medicinal and recreational uses.
Researchers have identifiedTrusted Source over 400 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant, of which about 80 are biologically active.
The most important biologically active compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids. These compounds are specific to the cannabis plant and appear nowhere else in nature.
Some of the more abundant cannabinoids include THC, CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabichromene (CBC).
THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is intoxicating. CBD does have some psychoactive effects, which is why researchers are studying its potential in treating mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. However, it does not have the same intoxicating properties as THC.
The Food and Drug Administration FDA state that products that contain more than 0.3% THCTrusted Source are illegal, and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) list them as a Schedule I drug.
THC binds to receptors in different parts of the brain. These receptors normally attach to the endocannabinoids, which are natural compounds that the human body produces.
CBD does not seem to bind to the same receptors as THC.
Scientists are still unsure how CBD exerts its effects, but they think it might boost endocannabinoid levels or bind to serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, happiness, and anxiety.
In animal and preliminary human studies, CBD has demonstrated some potentialTrusted Source therapeutic effects, including:
- reducing inflammation
- relieving pain
- controlling anxiety
- controlling psychosis
- promoting neuroprotection
- preventing vomiting
How do drug tests for cannabis work?
According to a 2020 articleTrusted Source, urine drug tests usually target the following substancesTrusted Source:
The urine test is the most common diagnostic test for cannabis. The urine drug screen is an “immunoassay test,” which uses antibodies designed to latch on to specific drugs or their metabolites — in this case, the presence of THC and its metabolites.
If the antibodies identify a drug, they will produce a signal that shows the test as “positive.”
According to an article in American Family Physician (AAFP), the federal government sets drug concentration levels for urine drug screening.
If a test detects a drug under this concentration threshold, it will return a negative result. If a person tests positive on the screening test, they may have to undergo a follow-up test.
Confirmatory tests, such as gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy or high-performance liquid chromatography, are more accurate in detecting drugs and their metabolites.
Doctors must take great care when analyzing the results of a positive cannabis test since false-positive and false-negative results are possible.
People who unexpectedly test positive on a urine drug screen should speak with their doctor.
The AAFP note that the test may detect weed for 3 days after a single use and more than 30 days after heavy use.
This occurs because THC is soluble in fat the body stores it in the fat compartments of the body. As a person burns or recycles this fat, it slowly releases the THC, and the kidneys eliminate it and its metabolites.
Researchers are also interested in using breath and saliva tests to detect cannabis in certain situations outside of the laboratory.
In theory, traffic police could use breath tests to check for impaired driving on the road. However, this technology is new and not yet fully understood.
Is it possible?
Cannabidiol (CBD) shouldn’t show up on a drug test.
However, many CBD products contain trace amountsTrusted Source of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), marijuana’s main active ingredient.
If enough THC is present, it will show up on a drug test.
This means that in rare cases, using CBD might lead to a positive drug test. It all depends on the product’s quality and composition.
Read on to learn how to avoid a positive drug test result, what to look for in CBD products, and more.
What do you mean certain CBD products might contain THC?
Most CBD products aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As a result, it’s difficult to know what’s in them — even if these products are legal in your state.
Factors such as where the CBD extract comes from and how it’s harvested might make THC contamination more likely. Certain types of CBD are less likely to have THC in them than others.
What are the different types of CBD?
CBD comes from cannabis, a family of plants. Cannabis plants contain hundreds of naturally occurring compounds, including:
Their chemical composition varies according to the plant strain and variety.
Although marijuana and hemp products are both derived from cannabis plants, they contain different levels of THC.
Marijuana plants typically contain THC in varying concentrations. The THC in marijuana is what produces the “high” associated with smoking or vaping weed.
In contrast, hemp-derived products are legally required to contain less than 0.3 percentTrusted Source THC content.
As a result, hemp-derived CBD is less likely to contain THC than marijuana-derived CBD.
Plant variety isn’t the only factor. Harvesting and refinement techniques can also change which compounds appear in CBD.
CBD extracts are typically labelled as one of the following types.
Full-spectrum CBD extracts contain all of the compounds that occur naturally in the plant they were extracted from.
In other words, full-spectrum products include CBD alongside terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids such as THC.
Full-spectrum CBD products are typically extracted from the marijuana subspecies.
Full-spectrum marijuana-derived CBD oil may contain varying amounts of THC.
Full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oil, on the other hand, is legally required to contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
Not all manufacturers disclose where their full-spectrum extracts come from, so it can be difficult to assess just how much THC may be present in a given product.
Full-spectrum CBD is widely available. Products range from oils, tinctures, and edibles, to topical creams and serums.
Like full-spectrum CBD products, broad-spectrum CBD products contain additional compounds found in the plant, including terpenes and other cannabinoids.
However, in the case of broad-spectrum CBD, all of the THC is removed.
Because of this, broad-spectrum CBD products are less likely to contain THC than full-spectrum CBD products.
This type of CBD is less widely available. It’s most often sold as an oil.
CBD isolate is pure CBD. It doesn’t contain additional compounds from the plant it was extracted from.
CBD isolate typically comes from hemp plants. Hemp-based CBD isolates shouldn’t contain THC.
This type of CBD is sometimes sold as a crystalline powder or a small, solid “slab” that can be broken apart and eaten. It’s also available as an oil or tincture.