Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?
Not always, even though it’s legal. Here’s how to protect yourself.
The 26-year-old video producer from Reno, Nev., was shocked when a drug test he took as part of a job application came back positive for marijuana. The problem? He hadn’t used marijuana, he says. Instead, J.C., who prefers not to use his name, had taken CBD, or cannabidiol, from hemp to help with sleep and anxiety. And unlike THC, a related compound in cannabis plants, CBD can’t get you high.
“I thought I was in the clear,” J.C. says. “From everything that I had heard, CBD oil wasn’t supposed to show up on drug tests.”
CBD is going mainstream. Late last year Congress made CBD from hemp legal at the federal level. And it’s increasingly found on store shelves, now even sold in some CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens stores. An estimated 64 million people have tried CBD in the past 24 months, according to a January 2019 nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports of more than 4,000 adult Americans, using it for pain, insomnia, anxiety, and other health problems.
But as more people try it, one unexpected “side effect” could be failing an employer’s drug test, and even losing a job as a result.
Consider Bianca Thurston of Pennsylvania and Coni Hass of California. They are jointly suing Koi CBD, alleging that they failed drug tests because of the company’s CBD product; Thurston lost her job. Or Douglas Horn, a truck driver in New York who alleges that he lost his job after taking a CBD product made by Dixie (aka Dixie Elixirs).
Koi CBD told Consumer Reports in a statement about the lawsuit: “Koi prides itself on providing the highest-quality products while being a leader in the industry. We take claims regarding our products very seriously. We are investigating this matter and the allegations, which at this time, are unproven and unverified. We remain focused on continuing to carefully craft and offer a full array of beneficial cannabinoid products.”
Dixie Elixirs did not respond to a request for a comment.
So how can you fail a drug test after taking CBD? The urine test most commonly used doesn’t even look for CBD but instead a compound created by the body when it metabolizes THC, says Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, the largest administrator of drug tests in the U.S. “There isn’t going to be a laboratory analytical false positive confusing CBD with a THC metabolite.”
But Sample says that CBD products could have more THC than the label claims. CBD products from hemp sold in retail stores and online aren’t supposed contain more than 0.3 percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in marijuana that can get you high.
It’s also possible that over time, the small amounts of THC allowed in CBD products could build up in the body to detectable levels.
And while New York City recently passed a law that, starting May 10, 2020, will bar many employers from testing prospective employees for marijuana, that is still the exception, even in states that allow marijuana for medical or adult recreational use. In fact, more than half of employers test job applicants for it, says Kate Kennedy, spokesperson for the Society for Human Resource Management, an industry group. That can help companies lower costs for disability insurance and workers’ compensation. Some people who work for the federal government or military or as pilots, bus drivers, train conductors, or truck drivers are also subject to drug testing.
So if you use CBD, especially if you are applying for a job or work in a sensitive field, you should be aware of the possible need to pass a drug test. Here’s more on how to do it, as well as advice on how to avoid that problem or deal with a positive drug test because of CBD.
CBD products often have more THC than claimed, research suggests. For example, a 2017 study in JAMA found that 18 of 84 CBD products, all purchased online, had THC levels possibly high enough to cause intoxication or impairment.
And those elevated levels might also be high enough to cause you not to pass a drug test.
That’s what Horn, the truck driver from New York, alleges happened to him after taking a product advertised to contain “zero THC.”
After losing his job because of the failed drug test, the lawsuit says Horn purchased a sample of the CBD product, had it tested, and found that, contrary to the claim, it did contain THC—enough, the lawsuit alleges, to cause a THC level in his urine of 29 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). That’s double the amount that typically triggers a positive result, says Sample at Quest Diagnostics.
Mislabeled CBD products are a growing problem for American workers, Sample believes. “It’s buyer beware,” he says. “There’s not always truth in labeling on the products.”
And he believes those high levels could be due in part to how THC levels are measured in hemp plants. While those plants are supposed to contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, that’s based on the dry weight of the plant. “But dry weight doesn’t necessarily equate to what’s in the finished product,” Sample says.
Plus, he says, in some cases that percentage is based on the weight of the whole plant, or on the weight of the buds or flowers, which tend to have more THC.
Adding to the confusion is that each state can determine how it samples and tests hemp plants for THC content, says Aline DeLucia, senior policy analyst for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. When sampling the hemp plant, “the closer you get to the flower, the higher the THC content. So some states collect the top 6 inches of the plant, while others do it differently,” DeLucia says. But “everybody is onboard that we need some kind of uniformity.”
And once CBD is turned into a “finished” product, such as an oil, a lotion, a tincture, a pill, or a vape liquid, few states dictate how those should be tested for THC, save for Oregon and soon Vermont. State agriculture departments, DeLucia says, don’t have jurisdiction over testing these products for safety.
Last, some states allow medical CBD products obtained through permitted channels to contain more than 0.3 percent THC. For example, the cutoff in Georgia and Virginia is 5 percent, Sample says, a level that is definitely high enough to cause impairment and a failed drug test.
Best bet: To increase the likelihood that a product doesn’t have more THC than claimed, look for a manufacturer that can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA, for its product. That document shows the results of a company’s testing for THC, CBD, and various contaminants. Though that testing is voluntary (except in Indiana and Utah) and the results aren’t confirmed by independent experts, for now it’s the best information available. If a store or website can’t provide you with a COA, look for another product. Read more about how CBD products are tested.
Small Amounts of THC Can Build Up
Many legitimate CBD products contain small amounts of THC. And when taken regularly over as little as four to six days, that THC can accumulate in the body, according to several studies.
That’s because THC is fat-soluble, says Norbert E. Kaminski, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University in East Lansing. So THC that isn’t immediately metabolized by the body will be stored in fat tissue. And “over time, THC and THC metabolites will be slowly released,” Kaminski says. As a result, it’s possible to test positive for THC and not pass a drug test, even after you’ve stopped taking the product.
Sample, at Quest Diagnostics, says that chronic, heavy users of marijuana could test positive even a month after they stop using it.
Best bet: Consider products that are claimed to be “CBD only” and have COAs showing that they contain zero THC. Also, you can try tracking your own THC levels with an at-home drug test, says Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, who has studied the medicinal use of CBD. If you test positive but need to be THC-free, consider taking a two- to three-week break from the product to clear THC from your system, he says.
What to Do If You Failed a Drug Test
Talk with your employer. That’s what worked for J.C., in Nevada, after he tested positive for marijuana use. Armed with documentation from his doctor that he was taking CBD to treat anxiety and insomnia, he met with company co-founder Matt Ross, chief operating officer of the Slumber Yard—a website that tracks user experiences with buying and using mattresses—and explained why he was taking it. He even took the bottle in for his employer to see.
“I wasn’t familiar with CBD at the time,” Ross says. But he and his partner appreciated that J.C. addressed the situation. “He was really talented as a video editor, and we felt comfortable enough to get past it.”
If that doesn’t work, try your company’s HR department. If your employer resists, you may be able to seek protection through the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability laws. Those laws allows people with documented needs to get exceptions, or “reasonable accommodations,” to account for their medical situation. While the ADA does not apply to marijuana—because it remains illegal on the federal level, even for medical use—it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department, says James Reidy, an attorney at Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green who focuses on drug policy issues with employers. That’s because CBD from hemp is now legal on a federal level.
If you have any documentation from a medical provider, that can help, too. And you may have more luck if you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia. Those states have passed laws providing some protection for people who use medical marijuana, potentially including CBD, Reidy says.
Other states, such as likeCalifornia, Montana, Oregon, and Washington have laws to assure that companies located in those states do not have to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people who use medical marijuana, and leave it up to each employer to decide, Reidy says. In those states, though, it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department about it if you’ve failed a drug test for marijuana after taking CBD.
Ask for a retest. If you’ve stopped taking CBD for a few weeks or longer, or took CBD infrequently, and still test positive for marijuana, consider asking for a retest. Though there are safeguards in place to prevent errors, Sample says, in rare cases they do happen.
In addition, some companies might set the threshold for THC very low to catch as many people as possible, Earleywine says. But doing so means the test can generate “some false positives, people who look as if they’ve used THC when they haven’t.”
Stop or skip using CBD products if faced with an upcoming drug test. That’s the only way to ensure that your CBD won’t trigger a positive test result for marijuana. And that includes stopping use of topical CBD lotions, oils, and cosmetic products, says Kaminski at Michigan State University. And it’s best to stop two to three weeks before the test, he adds. That should allow for enough time for any THC and THC metabolites to clear out of your system.
If you have to pass a drug test, you might want to skip taking CBD. Here’s why and how to protect yourself, with details from Consumer Reports on whether you can take CBD and pass a drug test.
Does the Military Test for CBD?
Posted on August 7th, 2020
The cannabis plant is loaded with phytochemicals that may have a positive impact on human health. More than 100 of those are known as cannabinoids. THC is an example of a cannabinoid and it’s famous for the psychoactive properties it lends to marijuana. THC is still considered illegal in most of the country and is tested regularly by employers, government agencies, and the military. But what about cannabidiol, better known as CBD? CBD is another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that boasts numerous potential benefits. While CBD is known for its non-psychoactive components, some CBD products still contain trace amounts of THC. Whether you are considering joining the military or are an active member, this may have you wondering: “Does the military test for CBD?”
What Is CBD?
As mentioned, CBD is another example of a well-known cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, it does not possess any psychoactive properties. It is also legal in most countries and is not tested for during drug tests. The long list of potential benefits and continued legal status of CBD has helped it become a popular product on the market.
CBD and THC, along with the other cannabinoids, interact with the human body through the endocannabinoid system. Recent studies indicate that the CB1 and CB2 receptors are responsible for interacting with CBD. These unique interactions lead to the many different potential health benefits associated with CBD-based products, such as pain management, reduced stress, and lower symptoms of anxiety.
Choosing the Right CBD Products
There are a lot of products on the market that may contain smaller amounts of CBD or even more amounts of THC (the legal amount of THC in CBD products is 0.3%) than what is labeled. It’s important to purchase from a reputable company and we encourage you to look for a high-quality CBD company, like Tanasi, that tests their products through a third-party lab and provides a certificate of analysis.
Furthermore, if you’re looking to experience the full effects of CBD you may want to consider full-spectrum products. Full-spectrum CBD products include all of the added terpenes, cannabinoids, and other phytochemicals available in the hemp plant which provide what’s known as the “entourage effect”. But, if you’re looking to avoid THC at all costs, consider a broad-spectrum or CBD isolate product.
But Is CBD Legal?
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the legality of CBD. It becomes even more confusing when you discuss its allowance in the workplace and while working in certain careers. For example, CBD oil might be legal in your state, but it may be different if you are employed by a government agency that does not allow it.
The good news is that CBD oil is legal on a federal level as long as it comes from a hemp plant with less than 0.3 percent THC. This follows the 2018 Farm Bill, which made legal the growth and sale of hemp plants and hemp-based extracts. The only obstacle being the tight regulation of the amount of THC allowed in the plant.
Some states have introduced laws that more closely regulate CBD production and consumption. Idaho, for example, controls which part of the hemp plant can be used for making the extracts. South Dakota has taken a very strong stance against CBD. They are both considered illegal in the state and it looks as though it may stay that way for a while.
Some states have progressed even further and allow for the sale of CBD products derived from marijuana. CBD oil extracted from marijuana would not contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Marijuana-derived CBD oil would most likely produce a psychoactive effect or a “high” feeling.
Is CBD Allowed in the Military?
If you are in the military or considering joining, then it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with their rules and guidelines on the subject.
CBD may be legal, but there are some indirect risks that come from using CBD oil. The biggest one being that you might test positive for THC on a drug test. Because of this, the United States military believes that CBD-based products should be avoided at all costs.
The military also believes other risks may be present because CBD products are not closely regulated by the FDA. This is true in some regards, but the risks can be mitigated by only purchasing CBD from reputable suppliers. At Tanasi, there are strict standards regarding the growth and the extraction process. Testing is performed at every stage along the way.
For the past year, the military relied on technical wording of the law to ban the substance among its service members. They claimed that CBD was not allowed because the Controlled Substance Act prohibited the use of resin collected from any part of the cannabis plant. This, of course, stood in contrast to the new guidelines released in 2018 as part of the Farm Bill.
A Move for Change
In July of 2020, the House of Representatives passed an amendment that would allow service members to purchase, possess, and consume hemp-derived products . It seems that this amendment may continue to succeed through its stages of development and may eventually allow some relief for service members who want to benefit from CBD oil.
Until then, the Department of Defense maintains its standing that CBD products are off-limit for service members. And even when the bill does pass, it will take some time for reforms to be implemented.
Some members of Congress are suggesting we invest more in the research of CBD so that military departments can better understand potential risks and benefits. Any additional research will likely improve the appreciation of CBD and help to eliminate any negative stigma.
Does the Military Drug Test for CBD?
The military does not utilize any specialized testing procedures designed specifically for CBD. However, they do test regularly for THC. If you are using a low-quality CBD product or purchased a CBD oil from a sub-par provider, then it may contain enough THC to trigger a positive on the drug test.
Marijuana drug tests used by the military are designed to detect either THC or THC-COOH, which is a metabolite of THC. A negative on one of these tests does not necessarily mean that there is 0 percent in the body. The tests were designed with higher cut-off percentages to prevent positive tests from only trace amounts of THC.
The exact cut-off percentage is going to vary according to the type of drug testing used. In a urine test, the THC metabolite must exist in a concentration above 50 ng/mL . Blood testing can vary from 1 to 5 ng/mL. Hair-based drug tests in the private industry have a cut-off percentage of 1pc/mg .
Is It Possible to Fail a Drug Test With CBD?
Secondhand Exposure to THC
There are ways that you might fail a drug test even if you’ve only been taking legal CBD products. The most obvious yet overlooked way is by secondhand exposure to THC.
Luckily, secondhand exposure is easy to avoid. It’s also not likely to be a serious problem because such small amounts of THC should leave the body fairly quickly. But it’s best to avoid this situation altogether if you are a service member or plan to be.
Another very common cause is cross-contamination. This takes place during the extraction or manufacturing of the product. It’s a risk you face if you purchase your hemp-derived products from a company that also sells marijuana-derived products. A similar risk might also be possible if you purchase your CBD oil in a store that also sells marijuana or oils containing THC.
You can avoid this potential setback by using a supplier who only sells hemp-derived products. A tightly-controlled inventory combined with strict handling procedures will eliminate this risk altogether.
CBD and THC
One study suggests that CBD has the potential to be converted to THC in highly-acidic conditions. The study has shown that it could take place in-vitro with simulated gastric fluid . There is some speculation that this might occur in the human body. However, these in-vitro conditions do not accurately depict the average human stomach, and the chances of CBD becoming THC after consumption are practically nonexistent.
One final cause is mislabeling. It sounds like a simple problem but it affects a large percentage of unregulated health products. Companies can easily list their products as “THC free” without enforcing any real testing. This problem is as serious with CBD as it is with any unregulated supplement or product. It’s possible for a company to sell CBD that has more THC than is allowed, which could trigger a positive on a military drug test. Which further enforces the importance of purchasing CBD from a high-quality and reputable manufacturer. If you’re looking to purchase CBD without any other cannabinoids, be sure to look for a CBD isolate from a source you can trust, as this is the purest form of CBD.
If you are an active service member or looking to join, it’s important to know the regulations around CBD in the military. Although the military does not test for CBD specifically, they do test for THC regularly. While CBD is still not allowed in the military, the passing of a recent amendment shows that there may be promise in the future.
Whether you are considering joining the military or are an active member, this may have you wondering: "Does the military test for CBD?"