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Does CBD show up on a drug test?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Oct 30, 2019.

Official Answer

Theoretically, CBD should not show up on a drug test. However, because most CBD products are classified as a supplement, it is not regulated for safety and purity. This means that contamination of the CBD with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) may and does occur, and this may show up on a drug test, depending on the cutoff level of the test and other factors listed below.

This is more likely to happen if the CBD you are buying is marijuana-derived CBD rather than hemp-derived CBD. Hemp-derived CBD is required by law to contain less than 0.3% THC, although regular daily ingestion of high doses of this may still cause THC to accumulate.

Broad-spectrum CBD is also less likely to be contaminated with THC. This is because all the THC is removed in broad-spectrum CBD as opposed to full-spectrum CBD which contains all of the compounds that naturally occur in the plant they were extracted from. CBD isolate is also pure CBD, and typically comes from hemp so it shouldn’t contain THC.

If you want to pass a drug test, don’t take CBD; or if you are taking it legally within your State’s laws, then declare it (however it still may be contaminated with THC unless brought by a reputable supplier who guarantees it to be THC-free).

How much THC needs to be present to cause a positive drug test?

It is difficult to say how much THC needs to be present to cause a positive drug test because this depends on several drug and patient-specific variables, and also the cutoff value for the test.

The following variables affect the amount of time that marijuana (THC) and its metabolites remain detectable in the urine or other biological samples:

  • Frequency of marijuana use (the half-life of THC is 1.3 days for an infrequent user and 5-13 days for frequent users)
  • Presence of interacting drugs
  • How much is used and the route of administration
  • Last time of ingestion.

Several patient factors can also affect the result, such as body mass, urine pH, urine concentration and other medical conditions such as kidney or liver disease.

An estimate of the length of time marijuana (THC) is detectable in urine is:

  • Single-use: 3 days
  • Moderate use (4 times/week): 5 to 7 days
  • Chronic use (daily): 10 to 15 days
  • Chronic heavy use: More than 30 days.

Federal workplace cutoff values for marijuana metabolites are 50 ng/mL for immunoassay screening tests (one ng is a billionth of a gram). In a confirmatory test, a metabolite of marijuana is measured, called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid, and a positive test result is above 15 ng/mL. However, this can vary depending on the variables listed above and should not be relied upon to ensure a drug-free result.

Other Things to Know About Workplace Drug Testing

Despite the widespread use of urine drug tests, there appears to be some inconsistency in the interpretation of test results. Considering the significant consequences a false-positive result can have (such as loss of job or imprisonment), this is somewhat surprising. But it is also something to be aware of, because it may mean that what is considered a pass (a negative result) in some circumstances may be considered a fail (a positive result) in others.

Drug testing can be conducted on various biological specimens, such as urine, hair, blood, saliva, sweat, toenails, fingernails, and meconium. Urine drug testing is the most common way of workplace testing for specific drugs because it is not invasive, and samples are easy to collect.

Drug tests either test for the parent drug or at least one of its metabolites, or both. Concentrations of drugs in urine are usually higher than in blood and present for longer.

There are two main types of urine drug tests: screening and confirmatory tests. Immunoassay screening tests can be conducted on-site (point of care testing) or in a laboratory and allow large numbers of tests to be performed at once with relatively rapid results, providing an initial estimate of the presence or absence of drugs. There are three main types available, and all use antibodies to detect the presence of specific or classes of drug metabolites. Unfortunately, this can mean that substances with similar characteristics may be detected, resulting in false-positive results.

Some visual point of care tests are favored by pain management clinics or by clinicians treating people with substance misuse disorders. However, at times the results may be difficult to read (such as a faint color or an uncertain color) which can result in a subjective interpretation. These tests should only be considered preliminary and a follow up confirmatory laboratory test should be conducted, as with any screening test; however, this best practice may not always be followed.

Confirmatory tests (Drug of Abuse Panel tests) use gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify specific molecular structures and to quantify the amount of drug or a substance present in the sample. These are more accurate than screening tests, but are also more costly and time-consuming and are usually reserved for situations that have significant legal, academic, forensic, or employment sequelae. These recognize cannabinoids rather than metabolites so should be able to distinguish CBD from THC.

Cut-off levels were established to help minimize false-positive results especially in workplace drug testing (for example, passive inhalation of marijuana; eating poppy seeds on bread causing positive opiate results) and these tend to be higher than those used by clinical laboratories.

Official answer: Theoretically, CBD should not show up on a drug test. However, because most CBD products are classified as a…

Will CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?

Arno Kroner, DAOM, LAc, is a board-certified acupuncturist, herbalist, and integrative medicine doctor practicing in Santa Monica, California.

CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a popular product for everything from pain control to anxiety to promoting sleep. However, with the rise of CBD comes the concern about failing a drug test due to detection of CBD oil. News stories are emerging across the country involving famous sports players, employees of companies, and others who have gotten positive drug screening results for the presence of THC—the psychoactive component of marijuana   —even though CBD oil is said to be THC-free.

What are the odds that CBD oil users will test positive when subjected to illicit drug screenings, and what can be done to prevent it?

Does CBD Oil Contain THC?

When a drug test is performed, the active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive screening is THC. However, most people are under the impression that CBD oil is THC-free.

As it turns out, depending on the source of the cannabis that is used to produce the CBD oil, some products do contain traces of THC (including low-quality isolates and many full-spectrum tinctures).

Breakdown of Cannabis

Cannabis is the umbrella term describing hemp and marijuana plants—two different varieties of the cannabis genus. Both marijuana and hemp can be described as cannabis plants; however, it is important to note that they are still two separate plants.

CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. One reason it’s gaining momentum in popularity is because it is said to lack the component of the plant that causes a person to get high, which is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  

The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is nearly void of THC. In fact, a cannabis strain must contain less than .3 percent THC to be classified as hemp. This is the reason hemp can be legally sold as various products.

Most CBD products are made from hemp, not marijuana.

There are many distinctions between marijuana and hemp that relate to CBD oil. Marijuana contains both THC (the psychoactive component) and CBD, whereas hemp contains CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Hemp contains many cannabinoids—CBD is only one example.

There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the active CBD compound gets processed as a “full spectrum oil” or an “isolate.” A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids at all. A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD such as CBN (cannabinol) and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma), and more.

Study of CBD Oil

While some CBD oils claim to be isolates, they may be full spectrum oils and actually contain more cannabinoids (such as THC) than they claim.

In a study conducted by researchers from the Lautenberg Center, researchers discovered that CBD was more effective for treating inflammation and pain when used with other cannabis plant compounds derived from a full spectrum product over a CBD isolate product alone. This is one reason that full spectrum products (those containing THC) are popular.

However, the distinction between full spectrum oils and isolates make all the difference if you are being tested for drug use.

Reasons for Failing a CBD Drug Test

There are several common reasons a person fails a CBD drug test.

1. Using Product With THC

The most common reason for a failed CBD drug test is that a person is using a CBD oil product that contains THC. Sometimes, this may be because a person purchases a low-quality product that does contain a small amount of THC—most manufacturers will claim their products do not contain THC, but this is not always the case.

2. Cross Contamination of THC

Very small amounts of THC present in the material that CBD is extracted from can get into the CBD oil in high enough amounts to result in a positive drug test. This scenario may be more apt to occur when CBD oil is purchased from cannabis dispensaries in places where cannabis is legal, as opposed to an online retailer.

3. Mislabeling of Products

CBD oil extracted from hemp is not supposed to have any more than .3 percent of THC. However, it’s not uncommon for sellers to mislabel their products as THC-free hemp when in reality, it’s a low-quality oil extracted from marijuana, which does contain THC.

In fact, one study discovered that almost 70 percent of the CBD products sold online were not labeled properly, “causing potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the FDA.

4. Secondhand Exposure to THC

Inadvertent exposure to marijuana (via secondhand smoke) is unlikely to be enough for a person to get a positive drug test result, but it is possible. Being in a room with heavy pot smokers for several hours may cause the inhalation of enough THC containing smoke to result in a positive test.  

A more likely secondhand exposure scenario is a positive marijuana hair test, resulting from direct contact with marijuana paraphernalia or from another person having THC on their hands.

For instance, if someone who had direct contact with marijuana then touched your hair, you could feasibly receive a false positive on a drug screening that tests your hair.

5. CBD Oil Breaks Down in The Digestive System

Some sources report that in rare cases, false positive test results have come from CBD oil that breaks down into very small amounts of THC in the stomach. Other studies, however, have refuted this.  

The conclusion is that it’s still theoretically possible for traces of THC metabolites to be present in the stomach acid in the instance where “less-purified CBD productions” are ingested.

How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test

If you take CBD oil, there are measures you can take to try to prevent failing a drug test.

  • Do thorough research to ensure the CBD product you’re using is pure and that the company is legitimate.
  • Ensure that the CBD oil is an isolate product extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply, and is not a low-quality tincture.
  • Ask questions about product processing techniques and the possibility of cross-contamination.
  • Avoid secondhand exposure to marijuana use via pot smoking or hair contact from THC users.

A Word From Verywell

In theory, getting a false positive on a drug test from CBD oil should be relatively impossible from pure CBD oil containing less than .3 percent THC. However, because CBD oil is not very well regulated, there is no guarantee that a product contains pure CBD oil, or that its concentration is at a safe or effective level.   It is best to use utmost caution and do your research when purchasing a quality CBD oil product to ensure its purity, especially if you need to undergo drug screenings.

Cases of CBD oil users failing drug tests are on the rise. Learn more about why this happens and how to avoid it.