The legality of cannabis in America has been in flux for decades, with state-level marijuana laws varying greatly across the country. While the majority of states now allow some form of medical marijuana, the legalization of recreational cannabis in Colorado and Washington in 2012 has sparked a movement towards full-on nationwide legalization—although there is still much headway to be made in that regard.
Public opinion has played a major role in this transition, with 66% of the country now being in favor of legalization—a 30 percent increase since 2005. As a result, the overall legal status of marijuana in America has become convoluted and confusing. While liberal-leaning states continue to pass more relaxed laws, conservative ones are taking a stricter approach. For example, both Kansas and Indiana have recently legalized cannabidiol (CBD), but with one distinct difference: CBD in Kansas must contain zero percent THC, while Indiana allows for up to 0.3%.
Caveats such as these lead many to wonder: will CBD show up on a drug test? Or, more accurately, will CBD lead to a failed drug test due to trace amounts of THC? Unfortunately, there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer to this question. While CBD is generally unlikely to result in a failed test for THC, there are many other factors that can influence the outcome.
Lack of Oversight
In 2018, Congress effectively legalized hemp (cannabis with less than 0.3% THC) by removing it from the list of Schedule I controlled substances. This opened the doors for nationwide CBD production. However, CBD is still not regulated by the FDA, and only one CBD product has been FDA-approved. Because of this, there is a significant lack of oversight in the cultivation, production, and distribution of hemp and CBD products.
While legitimate CBD companies usually have all of their products lab-tested by third parties for consumer peace of mind, there are still some CBD products in production that are subject to improper labeling, dishonest marketing and faulty test results. An inaccurately labeled CBD product may contain more THC than described, especially if it has been procured from a questionable source.
There are several methods to test for THC in a person’s system, and the outcome can differ depending on which one is used. To lessen the likelihood of trace amounts of THC resulting in a failed screening, cut-off values for each method have been set in place. Urine tests are the most common form of drug testing, with a THC-COOH (a metabolite of THC) cutoff of 50 ng/mL. A person who ingests CBD with a THC percentage of 0.3 or less is unlikely to fail a urine test, as this cutoff allows for trace amounts of THC.
Another method for testing THC-COOH levels is hair testing. Although not common, hair tests can be of concern to CBD consumers, as there is no established cut-off limit for THC-COOH with this method. In addition, hair follicle tests are known for being inaccurate. Because of this, CBD consumers may be at higher risk for failing a THC hair test—which indeed has happened to at least one person as reported by the New York Times a few months ago.
Other factors that can influence the outcome of a drug screen are metabolism, dosage amounts, and consumer ignorance. In the case of metabolism, everyone’s is unique, and a person whose body breaks down CBD or THC at a slower rate than others could be at a higher risk for detection. Similarly, a person who takes a much higher dosage of CBD than normal—say, 1,000 mg a day—will naturally have higher amounts of trace THC as well, putting them at higher risk.
Consumer ignorance can also contribute to a failed test, as many products on the market today contain high levels of both CBD and THC, some at levels much higher than 0.3%. For example: if a consumer unwittingly purchases a product marketed as CBD, but with a CBD to THC ratio of 4:1, they will be in for a surprise when they fail a urine screen.
If you’re a CBD consumer who is worried about failing a drug screening, the best possible precaution you can take is ensuring that the products you are purchasing come from a reliable, trustworthy source with verified lab-tested products. This is especially important when it comes to full spectrum CBD oil, as full spectrum products will usually contain trace amounts of THC (almost always 0.3% or less).
Although Colorado is notably lenient in its marijuana laws, some residents may still be subject to THC drug screens (i.e. government employees) and resulting termination if the screen is failed. In these cases, it may be helpful to hire a Colorado marijuana lawyer to help plead your case.
CBD continues to grow in popularity due to its wide range of purported benefits. As a consumer, it is ultimately your decision and your responsibility to ensure that your use of CBD does not result in unintended consequences.