Does Using CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?

Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi - Content Writer

Oct 07 2021 - 5 min read

When football season arrives, sports pages are filled with stories on drug testing and athletes who have failed.  Now, the question arises: what makes athletes consume drugs? Well, there are several reasons. The pressure to perform at peak physical performance regularly, perhaps some psychological issues stemming from childhood and, of course, the aches and pains accrued through training.

Every athlete wishes to excel in their respective sport. Consuming drugs increases their stamina and energy,, so that they can compete at the highest level.  Yet, excessive drug use can destroy their career, long-term performance, and even lives and families.

What goes for superstar athletes goes for people who work normal, everyday jobs as well. Many jobs require drug testing and, with both cannabis and non-FDA approved cannabidiol (CBD) products classified as Schedule I substances, even those who use CBD-only products run the risk of losing their jobs. The only way a person can potentially escape the punishment of a drug test that proves positive for cannabinoid metabolites is if they have a prescription from a doctor for any CBD product that is FDA-approved, which makes CBD a Schedule V substance. So far, only GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex to treat severe forms of epilepsy is FDA-approved.

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Yet, this raises a few questions …

Author: CacycleSource. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Can Drug Tests Detect CBD?

Most standard drug tests do not test for CBD. Instead, most drug tests test for the following:

    • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its metabolites, in particular, 11-nor-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid
    • Cocaine
    • Opiates and opioids
    • Barbiturates
    • Steroids (most often for athletes)
    • Propoxyphene
    • Phencyclidine (PCP)
    • Amphetamines

Of course, it is possible for a person to have a prescription for drugs in some of the above drug classes, in which case it is likely that a positive test will be assessed by a medical review officer (MRO).

THC metabolism. Author: Vinnisaft. From Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0.

How Can CBD  Produce a Positive Drug Test Result?

If a CBD product contains over 0.3% THC, it is possible for THC to become detectable. In a market that is as unregulated as the hemp and cannabis one, this is entirely possible. Those who take full-spectrum CBD oils regularly, even if they have minimal amounts of THC in them, could possibly test positive for THC. Some reduce this risk by using CBD isolates and oils that test nil for THC, but sadly this can also reduce the efficacy of CBD to some extent.

However, if a CBD product contains 0.3% or less of THC, even regular consumption of high levels of CBD (say 1,000 mg or over) rarely meets the threshold for a positive THC result, which is >50ng/ml in the urine. 

To provide a broad overview:

    • Most tests do not test for CBD because the procedure would be too costly and complex to carry out in most cases.
    • CBD products that contain 0.3% or less of THC are unlikely to produce a positive drug result but may do on occasion depending upon the regularity of consumption, whether or not extremely high doses of CBD were ingested, and the person’s own individual metabolism.
    • THC metabolites can be detected in the urine for up to 2 weeks in the casual user, and several weeks for the more regular user (usually 30-40 days).
    • Around 4% of tests result in a false positive.
    • A urine screening alone is usually not enough to definitively say that an individual’s cannabis use is a cause of impaired performance, or that the person is under the influence of cannabis while at work. Blood tests also need to be taken in order to assess performance.

Is CBD Detectable in the Body?

At the moment, most standard and even more advanced drug tests do not test for CBD. But it can be detected if the right tests are done. Levels of CBD in the bloodstream usually peak within 3-5 minutes after ingestion if smoked or vaped, and between 30 minutes and 2 hours if taken sublingually or eaten. The effects usually last between 4 and 12 hours, depending on the method of ingestion, the amount taken and the individual’s metabolism.

In the saliva, CBD is detectable for up to 24 hours after ingestion, and up to 3 days for heavy CBD users (in particular smokers and vapers). In the urine, CBD is detectable for between 5 and 10 days after last ingestion. However, as it would be the metabolites of CBD (7-OH-CBD and 6-OH-CBD) that are tested for and cannabinoid metabolites bind to the fats in the body, CBD can be detectable in the urine for 2-5 weeks after ingestion, depending upon the regularity of use and dosage.

As the metabolites of cannabinoids go from the bloodstream and even into one’s hair follicles, it is possible to test positively for CBD up to 3 months after last ingestion, if the person was more than a casual user. While hair tests can be one indicator of cannabis use and can detect metabolites several months afterwards, they are not as accurate or reliable (or invasive) as blood tests.

You can test for cannabis & thc yourself. Photo by ProjectManhattan. From Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 4.0.

How Do I Pass a Drug Test if I Take CBD Regularly?

While CBD is not usually looked for in most drug tests, it is still possible that you may test positive for THC, even if you do not consume it or only use small amounts. The best way to prevent a false positive is by doing the following:

    • Not using any CBD product for at least two weeks prior to any test. Ideally, one month or even two months to be sure.
    • Getting plenty of exercise and keeping hydrated may help “flush” your system of any cannabinoids. Burning away fat cells that contain cannabinoids via exercise may prove particularly effective. Going to the sauna a day or two prior to the test may help as well.
    • Some say that drinking plenty of green, white and herbal teas can help as well. Whether this is true or not we cannot say for sure, but it is interesting to note that tea catechins have a weak affinity for cannabinoid receptors. Such teas also tend to contain plenty of antioxidants, so this could also help “flush” cannabinoids out of one’s body.
    • As hair samples can detect cannabis use for up to 3 months after last ingestion, some may opt for a close shave a month or two prior to a drug test.
From Pexels.

Can a Medical Marijuana Card Help Me if I Fail a Drug Test?

As cannabis and CBD are Schedule I substances, federally illegal and cannot be prescribed outside of the Schedule V, FDA-approved Epidiolex, a medical marijuana card cannot save you. However, some states are starting to add employment protections for those who need to use cannabinoid-based medications. But if you are not working with heavy machinery or driving, not working with those considered vulnerable, or not working within law enforcement or any other form of federal employment, then there may be some leeway. These exceptions, however, depend very much on the employer’s discretion. 

Having a valid medical marijuana card will likely give you access to a greater number of high-quality, cannabis-based (rather than hemp-based) CBD. There may be slightly higher levels of THC (though not necessarily psychoactive amounts) in some of the CBD-based cannabis products when compared to hemp products, but having a valid MMC may lend credence to the fact that you may need to use cannabis for a defined and diagnosed medical problem.

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Using CBD as Medicine

We know that CBD and other cannabinoids have many potential uses, as well as not being anywhere near as psychoactive as many drugs and medications, even prescription ones. CBD and cannabis oils may help to fight against cancer. Many use CBD for anxiety and depression, especially if they have been prescribed a cycle of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. CBD may be used to help treat epilepsy, and there even exists an FDA-approved CBD-containing product as proof of this. Athletes, especially ones in high-impact sports such as boxing, mixed martial arts, and football, often use CBD as an alternative to the high-spectrum NSAIDs, analgesics and opioids they are usually prescribed for their pain.

Unfortunately, the science is not always reflected by the law and the government. Until that happens, even those who use CBD exclusively are potentially in danger of falling foul of drug tests, even if that risk is very low. 

To experience the benefits of CBD and other cannabis products, apply for your medical marijuana card through Leafwell today. 

Written by
Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi

Tina Magrabi is a writer and editor specializing in holistic health. She has written hundreds of articles for Weedmaps where she spearheaded the Ailments series on cannabis medicine. In addition, she has written extensively for the women's health blog, SafeBirthProject, as well as print publications including Destinations Magazine and Vero's Voice. Tina is a Yale University alumna and certified yoga instructor with a passion for the outdoors.

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