Will CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer’s research.
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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 and anxiety to promoting sleep. However, with the rise of CBD use comes a concern about failing a drug test.
News stories are emerging across the country involving famous people who have gotten positive drug screening results for the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is the component of marijuana that can cause people to feel high. This is happening 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?
This article explains why a positive drug test can happen with CBD use, which types of CBD are most likely to trigger one, and what you can do to avoid it.
Does CBD Oil Contain THC?
The active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive drug test screening is THC. Most people are under the impression that CBD oil is THC-free, which is generally true. But not always.
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. This includes low-quality isolates and many full-spectrum tinctures. A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD.
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, but they are two different plants.
CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in cannabis plants. One reason it’s becoming more popular is because it’s said to lack THC.
The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is nearly void of THC. In fact, a cannabis strain must contain less than 0.3% THC to be classified as hemp. This is why hemp can be legally sold in 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 “high”-inducing element) and CBD. Hemp contains CBD and only trace amounts of THC.
Hemp also contains many cannabinoids, which is a name for the compounds found in cannabis. CBD is only one example.
There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the CBD oil is an “isolate” or a “full-spectrum oil.”
A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids. The full-spectrum compounds may include other active chemicals, such as cannabinol and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma).
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.
A study conducted at the internationally known Lautenberg Center For Immunology and Cancer found that CBD was more effective at treating inflammation and pain when used with other cannabis plant compounds.
These compounds were derived from a full-spectrum product rather than 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 makes 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.
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. This may be a full-spectrum product. Sometimes, though, it could be a low-quality isolate product that contains a small amount of THC.
Although most manufacturers claim their products do not contain THC, this is not always the case.
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 likely to occur when CBD oil is purchased from cannabis dispensaries in places where cannabis is legal.
Mislabeling of Products
CBD oil extracted from hemp is not supposed to contain more than 0.3% 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. And marijuana does contain THC.
In fact, one study discovered that almost 70% of the CBD products sold online were mislabeled. This caused “potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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 result.
A more likely secondhand exposure scenario is a positive marijuana hair test. This results from direct contact with marijuana paraphernalia or from another person having THC on their hands.
For instance, say that 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.
CBD Oil Breakdown 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 finding.
The conclusion is that it’s still theoretically possible for traces of THC to be present in stomach acid when “less-purified CBD productions” are ingested.
How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test
If you take CBD oil, you can take steps 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.
- Look for manufacturers that have been accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
- Ensure that the CBD oil is an isolate product extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply. It should not be 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.
CBD oil is usually marketed as THC-free, but that’s not always the case. Full-spectrum CBD oils contain other cannabinoids, which may include THC. Isolate products may be contaminated with THC, as well.
You have to be proactive to avoid failing a drug test if you’re taking CBD oil. Most important: Ensure that you’re using a pure product made by a reputable company.
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 0.3% THC. However, because CBD oil is not well regulated, there is no guarantee that a product contains pure CBD oil, or that its concentration is safe or effective.
Use the utmost caution and do your research when purchasing a quality CBD oil product to ensure its purity, especially if you need to undergo a drug screening.
Frequently Asked Questions
Drug tests look for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the element in marijuana that causes a high. CBD oils can have trace amounts of THC even if they’re labeled “THC-free.” The FDA does not regulate these products, and mislabeling is common.
Yes. If the products contain THC, you could test positive. If you know you’ll need to take a drug test, avoid full-spectrum CBD products that may contain small amounts of THC. Be sure you purchase products from a reliable source. And be wary of online retailers; researchers have found that 21% of online CBD and hemp products were mislabeled.
Legal CBD Products May Make You Test Positive For Cannabis In Urine Drug Tests, Johns Hopkins Study Says
With legal cannabis and hemp hitting the mainstream hard, and expanding rapidly across the U.S. and the rest of the world, the availability of products containing CBD in considerable proportions is exploding.
And, while some studies have suggested drug testing at work is a thing of the past, this is not the case for all jobs. Some jobs, as well as criminal justice and addiction treatment proceedings, among others, still require drug testing.
How We Drug-Test For Cannabis
During a recent conversation, postdoctoral fellow Tory Spindle, Ph.D., a researcher in the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, explained how we drug-test for cannabis.
“There is a need to understand whether the use of CBD products (. ) can impact drug testing for cannabis given their growing availability and increased interest in CBD for therapeutic purposes.”
“Conventional urine drug testing for cannabis targets a common metabolite of THC called THCCOOH (THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis). Importantly, many CBD-dominant products contain low levels of THC, including hemp-derived CBD products which can legally contain up to 0.3% THC,” he said. “There is a need to understand whether the use of CBD products, with and without low levels of THC, can impact drug testing for cannabis given their growing availability and increased interest in CBD for therapeutic purposes.”
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And this is what Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers set out to do in recent months, publishing their findings at the Journal of Analytical Toxicology this week.
A team at Johns Hopkins Medicine conducted a study in which six individuals administered pure CBD, both orally and using a vaporizer, as well as inhaled vaporized CBD-dominant cannabis (containing 0.39% THC) on separate occasions.
After dosing, they provided urine samples to determine whether they would test positive for cannabis using common drug testing standards.
“The results showed that pure CBD did not produce a positive result on a standard urine drug test for cannabis. However, 2 of 6 participants tested positive for cannabis after they inhaled CBD-dominant cannabis vapor,” Spindle explained.
In his and his colleagues’ opinion, these results have important implications for consumers of CBD products.
“2 of 6 participants tested positive for cannabis after they inhaled CBD-dominant cannabis vapor.”
“The cannabis used in this study was very similar in THC composition to what is found in legal CBD/hemp products,” Spindle continued. “Individuals who are subject to urine drug testing in their place of employment or elsewhere should understand that even very small amounts of THC in a CBD/hemp product can trigger a positive result for cannabis and that conventional drug tests cannot distinguish whether THC present in someone’s system came from cannabis, or a federally-legal hemp product.
“These results are especially important for people who use hemp/CBD products daily, such as for therapeutic reasons, because THC can potentially build up in a person’s system with repeated use, which could further increase the chances of a positive result for cannabis.”
Finally, Spindle pointed out the findings of the Johns Hopkins study are highlight the issue of some poorly regulated CBD products being advertised as “THC free,” even though they were found to contain levels of THC similar to (or higher) than the THC levels present in the cannabis used in a study conducted by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“THC can potentially build up in a person’s system with repeated use [of CBD products], which could further increase the chances of a positive result for cannabis.”
Vandrey and his collaborators at the University of Pennsylvania had published a JAMA study showing that that 21% of CBD/hemp products sold on the Internet contained THC, even though their labels didn’t properly disclose it.
“I have a hard time finding anyone who hasn’t used a CBD product at least once, but most are completely unaware of the possibility of THC exposure or a positive drug test as a result of using these newly legalized products,” Vandrey said in a release.
Can CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test?
Can CBD make you fail a drug test? It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds. Today, one-in-five adults aged 18-29 report using CBD regularly and for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with getting high.
Some people use CBD to alleviate stress and reduce anxiety, while others use it to help with seizures or ease Cancer-related illnesses. Regardless of usage, CBD is considered a safe, non-psychoactive alternative to THC-heavy marijuana.
However, CBD is not without its downfalls.
Although CBD is legal in Texas (as long as it contains a percentage less than 0.3 THC, more on that later), it can still result in a failed drug test. Let’s talk about why this happens and what you can do if you fail a drug test.
What is CBD: Pure Isolate vs. Broad/Full Spectrum
Before we can articulately explain why and how CBD can make you fail a drug test, let’s establish what CBD is and is not, as well as some of the definitions that are helpful to know if you’re worried about failing a drug test.
CBD is short for cannabidiol, the second most prevalent chemical compound in Cannabis Sativa, more commonly known as marijuana or hemp. Unlike the other major compound in cannabis, THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and will not get you high.
However, not all CBD is created equally. There are three main kinds of CBD: CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD, and broad-spectrum CBD, and one type of CBD carries a higher risk of causing you to fail a drug test than the others.
- CBD Isolate: Also known as pure CBD, CBD isolate is cannabidiol in its purest available form, free of any other cannabis compounds, including THC. CBD isolate has virtually no taste or odor and is highly unlikely to result in a failed drug test.
- Full-spectrum CBD: Full-spectrum CBD contains at least some of all the compounds present in the cannabis plant, including trace amounts of THC. Under Texas law, full-spectrum CBD composition must be less than 0.3 THC. Additionally, because full-spectrum CBD contains more compounds of the cannabis plant, its effects are often stronger. While full-spectrum CBD is unlikely to cause a false positive on your drug test, the presence of THC can potentially cause you to fail.
- Broad-spectrum CBD: Similar to full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD contains all chemical compounds from the cannabis plant except THC. Broad-spectrum CBD should not result in a false positive for THC on a drug screening.
Why can CBD make you fail a drug test?
When it comes to run-of-the-mill drug tests, full-spectrum CBD can be problematic for a variety of reasons, but let’s address the top three concerns.
THC may build up over time in your body
Recent studies have shown that THC can build up in your body over time when consumed frequently, even if it is only present in low volumes as with full-spectrum CBD. People who use CBD for medical purposes daily may be at additional risk of THC buildup, potentially resulting in a failed drug test.
More specifically, researchers at John Hopkins have found “studies show that THC and its metabolites may accumulate with repeated use” which, over time, could result in a positive drug test.
Facilities have difficulty with accurate drug testing
Current lab testing equipment does not differentiate between various levels of THC. This means that the equipment would yield a positive result whether there were trace amounts of THC or extremely high levels of THC.
Since laws have changed, facilities are scrambling to adjust their equipment and testing procedures. Many labs, including both equipment and testing personnel, are still not adequately prepared to differentiate between legal and illegal levels of THC. This includes both the equipment and the personnel responsible for testing.
There is also the potential that specific testing equipment can completely misidentify CBD as THC, and using any additional medication can cross-react with CBD, resulting in false positives.
It’s also important to take into consideration law enforcement. Many police officers also aren’t equipped to differentiate between legal and illegal CBD. If they catch you with a bag of CBD gummies — whether they’re illegal or not — they may still arrest you and charge you with possession. And remember, this would come down to the full bag of gummies — not just serving size. So if your gummies do end up having more than .3% THC (even if it is just by a little bit), they’ll charge you with possession for the entire bag. This is no different than being caught with weed.
Packing and labeling may not be entirely accurate
Just because the label says it contains less than .3% THC, doesn’t mean 100% accuracy. Packaging becomes even more of an issue when dealing with smaller storefronts and individuals selling CBD oil out of their homes.
Even though HB 1325 outlines specific safeguards meant to avoid issues with production and packaging, this is still relatively new to Texas as a whole, and there are bound to be problems. Many studies show that CBD products often contain more THC than the packaging claims it contains (even if it claims to have 0% THC).
It’s also important to keep in mind that states have different regulations on marijuana as a whole. If you bring in CBD from another state, this could be problematic for you in Texas (even if it is considered legal in the state you purchased it in).
On top of this, different cities handle testing and charges differently. If you live in Houston, read our article, “Is weed legal in Houston?”
How to fight a failed drug test for CBD
Even though the issues surrounding CBD testing in Texas sound troubling, they could still work in your favor. Similar to beating a DWI in Texas, you can use the nuances associated with lab testing to fight for your innocence if you are accused of driving under the influence of marijuana or are fighting against a probation violation due to a false positive result from CBD.
To do this, it’s important to work with a Board Certified defense lawyer, such as Mark Thiessen, who understands how, when, and why lab testing yields inaccurate results.
Mark Thiessen is a lawyer-scientist who is directly responsible for over a hundred not guilty verdicts and thousands of dismissals. To learn more about how Mark can help you, contact the firm for a free consultation today.