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Navigating the Gray Area: How CBD Interacts with Drug Testing and What You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 6

It's no secret that CBD is becoming more and more popular. But what you may not know is that it could impact your ability to pass a drug test. Here's what you need to know about how CBD affects drug testing.

Drug Testing

Deciding to take CBD oil is a good move for your health, but what about your job? Unfortunately, prohibition and stigma still exist all around cannabis, including CBD. When people seek new employment, they often have to go through standard drug testing procedures that look for drugs of abuse. Some people have random, spot checks where they are subject to stringent testing anytime. For people who can have absolutely zero risk, I recommend abstaining from CBD oil because of the incredible stress of having a spot check on your livelihood go wrong. Let’s take a deeper look at the process and how to stay safe.

CBD Origins

CBD comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant, and plants can be grown and bred for marijuana CBD which has greater than 0.3% THC, or for industrial hemp CBD, which has less than 0.3% THC. Since there are trace amounts of THC in hemp CBD, a high enough dose taken before a drug screen could yield a positive result for THC. Marijuana CBD will test positive for THC. It is sold in cannabis dispensaries and is regulated and tested by the state licensing programs to prove potency, purity, and that is it free from any contaminants.

Industrial hemp CBD is sold online or retail stores and is not regulated. Hemp CBD is self-policed, so testing for potency, purity, and contaminants needs to be done by the vendor who wants to do right by their customers. Every bottle of CBD on the market should be tested, but there are costs associated with testing, and some unscrupulous vendors will market items that have not been tested. People buying hemp CBD want the peace of mind that they can supplement for their health, and not be high. They also want to know that they will not fail a drug test.

CBD Drug Screens

Urine drug screens do not look for CBD, it is THC and its metabolites they seek. Most drug testing facilities follow the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) guidelines, and over 50 ng/ml THC detected will be a fail. These tests can be very sensitive and trigger false positives, which should be confirmed with serum blood testing if a job is threatened. Simple over the counter drugs like Motrin may even trigger a false alarm. Some sensitive people can test positive after heavy exposure in a poorly ventilated room where friends are smoking marijuana.

Risks exist, and people need to take measures to deal with them. Some people who know they will test positive for THC get a prescription from their doctor for Marinol, the synthetic THC that is used for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. Some carry ‘fake urine’ to use instead of their own in case of spot checks. Some check their urine at home before testing to be sure they're clear, but those can be inaccurate. Understandable measures for those who use THC, but with CBD people don’t want to worry.

Federal Laws Are Changing

On the employer side, it is understandable how some adhere to the letter of the law because they have to satisfy federal rules. The 1988 Federal Drugfree Workplace Act made it illegal to use drugs on the job so that others are not at risk. If your employer has federal contracts to protect, they cannot allow anyone to jeopardize those dollars of revenue. Until federal prohibition ends, and cannabis and the metabolites of THC are no longer a Schedule 1 drug, we are going to have to continue the anxious game of trying to stay clean. There is no test or concessions made for CBD only laws, because there’s no test for CBD without THC.

To put things in perspective, we need to look at the odds you risk when using industrial hemp CBD. According to Leafly, consumers of up to 2000mgs of hemp CBD at 0.3% could consume 6mgs of THC, which could tip the scale in 11-23% of tests. Regular doses of 25mgs per day would only put 0.075mg of THC in the body, which should be undetectable. A small dose of hemp CBD would cut your risk of a positive screen to 400-600 times less than cannabis CBD. If you're willing to take that risk, then hemp CBD may be worth an occasional worry because you could gain a better quality of life which would really maximize your bet.

CBD Is Not Created Equally

So what are the options for using CBD and maintaining a clean urine drug screen? To clarify things further let’s re-examine the different kinds of CBD on the market.

  • Cannabis, or marijuana CBD oil is 0.3% or higher in THC and may yield a positive result on a drug screen. It is grown at 20:1 or 10:1 CBD:THC and can be ‘hot’ enough to pop positive. People who take cannabis CBD should be secure at work and not fear testing.

  • Industrial hemp Full spectrum oil CBD is 0.3% or less THC is medicinally beneficial because of the ‘entourage effect’ of the cannabinoids, terpenes and other plant components activating each other. Most CBD marketed is full spectrum CBD oil, and buyers should consume it knowing there is a slight risk of the 0.3% THC accumulating to reach a positive screen.

  • Industrial hemp Broad spectrum oil CBD is 0.3% or less THC, and has undergone a special process called liquid chromatography extraction which removes all of the THC from the oil prior to bottling. Broad spectrum CBD should give you a 99.99% surety of testing negative, yet retains all of the entourage effects, less the THC.

  • Isolate CBD has no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or plant materials – it is pure CBD in the form of a powder and should never cause a positive test for THC. However, mislabeled products and cross-contamination in facilities could taint isolate CBD.

  • Other cannabinoids like CBN, CBDA, CBG, and CBC can be mixed with CBD oils to be sold as solutions to multiple issues. CBN may be helpful for sleep and mixed in with CBD as a formula to relax the body and mind to get some rest. CBN is an oxidized derivative of THC, which can result in a positive test. CBDA, CBG, and CBD were in the clear.

Final Thoughts

Generally, hemp CBD should be safe to consume, have no intoxication, and not cause a positive urine drug screen for THC. As a clinician, I am not a fan of isolate because it takes more milligrams to work effectively, and higher mg can trigger side effects and drug interactions. If you’re worried about full-spectrum oil, choose broad spectrum. When you think of the wellness benefits of hemp CBD; less anxiety, more focus, less stress, better sleep, less inflammation, and better moods, it makes sense to try and find one that works for you.

In closing, the value of taking CBD is always found in the highest quality medicine with the greatest assurance of purity. This remains a very loose and unregulated market, but there are many vendors like Easy Day Hemp that test every batch as products are released. Those who want the most effective medicine or supplement, with the highest standards of care, insist on finding lab-tested true products

In health, Elisabeth

Easy Day Medical Contributor

Elisabeth Mack RN, MBA founded Holistic Caring in 2016 as a concierge medical cannabis consultation service with clinical nurses helping educate, guide, and support patients with product choices, dosages, and timing. Integrating cannabis into a treatment plan for complex diseases takes time, knowledge, and research that very few practitioners have. She bridges the gap between traditional and cannabis medicine.

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