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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.

Mislabeled Products

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.

I Take CBD Oil. Will I Pass a Drug Test?

So, you want to know if you are going to fail a random drug test if you try CBD. It’s a good question. The answer is yes and no. It would be a definitive NO with the exception of a few details that we will cover. The inherent danger for consumers is the lack of regulatory oversight and unscrupulous companies that jump into the CBD industry looking for a quick cash grab. Other concerns have to do with outdated company policies and a handful of states that are still being stubborn about hemp.

We will start from the top with the legality of hemp CBD oils on the federal level, then discuss states, and finally what sort of drug screens employers use to discriminate against employees and applicants.

Is CBD Legal in All 50 States?

Federally

On the federal level, CBD oil derived from hemp plants with a THC content of 0.3 percent or less, on a dry weight basis, is legal. Provisions from the Hemp Farming Act were included in the 2018 Farm Bill, making industrial hemp and hemp derived products federally legal after nearly 80 years of prohibition. But before you run off and start measuring out doses of CBD, that does not necessarily mean you won’t be taking a big risk. It’s tricky.

The FDA has labeled CBD as a drug instead of a supplement. Last year they approved Epidiolex, a cannabis derived pharmaceutical drug to treat certain types of epilepsy. By doing so, they really confused our military branches and other government divisions.

Here’s what the FDA.gov site says:

“If a substance (such as THC or CBD) is an active ingredient in a drug product that has been approved… then products containing that substance are outside the definition of a dietary supplement.”

Due to this technicality, CBD oils remains a banned substance for a number of government jobs and some military branches, so if you work or contract for the government, make sure you are up to date on the alcohol and drug policies.

States

Many states have permissive medical marijuana programs, but that is not really the concern here. What matters is whether your existing employer will fire you, or potential employer will pass on hiring you if you don’t pass a drug test. In fact, Nevada is the only state where law has been enacted that prevents most employers from discriminating against people that have failed a test for THC. If you take a CBD product that contains even a trace amount of THC, and a test comes up positive, you could lose your job or not get hired in the first place. Blood, hair tests and urine tests are almost always looking for THC. So, here is the big questions. Is there THC in your CBD oil?

Is There THC in CBD Oil?

There very well might be some THC in your CBD oil. You might think, “Well, so what?” It’s true that a trace amount of THC will not get you high, but it could still result in a positive drug test

Does CBD Get You High?

No, CBD alone does not get you high. It can help you focus and destress, which in a way is mind-altering. But high? Nope, not CBD. THC is the cannabinoid that gets you high and while both cannabinoids come from the same plants, they are actually quite different.

THC mimics the endocannabinoids our bodies produce naturally by means of binding to CB1 receptors in our endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS). CBD doesn’t even bind to CB receptors. It actually spends most of its time preventing other molecules from binding to CB receptors, including THC, which can reduce the psychoactive effects of THC depending on CBD:THC ratios.

Does it work?

Not only are there countless testimonials about CBD reducing seizures, helping veterans struggling with PTSD, and a laundry list of other ailments that it helps, there are also many official studies out about its medicinal value. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, or NCBI, has produced many articles summarizing studies that have been conducted on the effects of CBD. There are even studies about how it may treat schizophrenia and autism.

Is There a CBD Oil Drug Test?

No, there is not a CBD oil drug test. An employer could have a CBD oil test created if they really wanted to, but it is highly unlikely. It is a biological molecule and there are certainly ways to detect its presence, but for most employers testing for CBD could be a giant waste of time. Most drug screens are looking for THC though, not CBD. That does not necessarily mean that your employer does not ban the use of CBD. You can always look at your employer’s Drug Testing Policy Statement and if they don’t have one available, just ask to ensure you are covered.

Will Taking CBD Make Me Fail a Drug Test?

Yes, because some CBD oil products may have a little THC in them, especially full spectrum products. If you check the labels on CBD products, they should tell you if there is any THC. Beyond that, there are definitely shady companies that are not being honest about the contents of their CBD oil. Keep reading about some of the shady tactics we have identified by some CBD companies.

Shady Companies

Here are the 5 top ways CBD companies falsify information to get your business.

Our CBD is lab tested for purity

Third party testing is a critical component for keeping manufacturers from falsifying label information and if you stumble across a CBD brand that doesn’t have a testing certificate available for you to view from a reputable CBD testing company, then head for the hills. Some companies will photoshop lab test results and even fake the ingredients, because there is no regulatory body that can police CBD product potency.

Our CBD products are derived from the hemp plant

While putting that the CBD is hemp derived on the label might be enough to ship according to the 2018 Farm Bill, it doesn’t mean that producers listen. There has been an overproduction of cannabis across the United States and rather than destroying valuable marijuana, some producers will extract CBD from cannabis plants versus hemp plants to save money. If they are willing to cut that corner, then what other corners are they cutting? Maybe they are leaving a little THC in the bottle.

100% all-natural ingredients

While CBD derived from hemp may be all-natural, most companies neglect to mention that preservatives, flavorings and fillers may not be all-natural. If there are any additives in the CBD oil that you are taking, then there is a good chance it is no longer all-natural.

USP Certified (U.S. Pharmacopeia)

USP Certification is a paid regulatory agency that certifies ingredients are of the highest quality for consumption, the product is made in a good manufacturing environment and that what is on the label is indeed inside the bottle. Unfortunately, there is no easy way for a consumer to tell if the CBD company has paid for the verification or just slapped the logo on the bottle.

1000 mg of CBD in each bottle

Unfortunately, some producers are skimping on the amount of CBD in their bottles. There have been media exposes that uncovered an alarming number of manufacturers who either put a small amount of CBD in their formulations or none at all. Check for the third party lab’s certificate of analysis to ensure there is a CBD 1000mg dose in the bottle.

The FDA and FTC sent out letters to the three biggest manufacturers of CBD products warning them about making claims concerning the benefits of CBD and what they can say. But, that is only 3 out of what is estimated to be more than 11,000 CBD brands.

Unfortunately there are way more dubious CBD producers that are looking to capitalize on the CBD wave, versus producing a quality hemp based CBD oil. Until there is regulation, research and reading CBD oil reviews are the only real way to find a brand that works well for you.

Feeling “Something” vs “Placebo”

Imagine you have been taking a CBD oil for a week and telling all of your friends how great it is making you feel. You are getting a great night’s sleep, you feel stress free and your back pain is not bothering you as much. Then you read an article about a CBD company that has been shutdown because it turned out that they were actually selling hemp seed oil, but telling everyone it was CBD oil.

You continue reading and discover there is no CBD in hemp seeds. You look over at your bottle of CBD oil and see that it is from the same company. You haven’t actually put any CBD in your body for the last week as it turns out. You have been duped by the placebo effect and the shady company.

The only way to really know if CBD is working is to continue taking it. Over time your aches, anxiety and insomnia will creep their way back into your life after the mental block begins to fail.

How much CBD Should I Take?

How many mgs of CBD should you take? Do I take a CBD edible? How many 25mg CBD gummies should I take? Well that very much depends on your weight and the condition you are trying to treat. While some medical professionals, like Dr. Daniel Clauw from the University of Michigan, have begun to voice their opinions on dosing for CBD, but the information is thin at best.

The key is to start slowly and increase your dosages overtime until you find that perfect balance. To optimize its health effects you may need to vary doses, but the most important thing to know first is how to measure the mgs of CBD you are taking. Here is a handy dosage calculator that we created, but we aren’t doctors or pharmacists, so this isn’t a prescription, but it’s what worked for us.

MG to ML

While CBD is measured in milligrams (mgs), CBD oil will come in a bottle which is measured by volume or milliliters (mls). The key is to know how many mgs of CBD is in 1 ml of CBD oil, which is the capacity of most droppers when full. Then you can know how many mgs you are taking in one full dropper. By dividing it by 2 you can know how many mgs are in half of a dropper full.

How many mgs in a dropper?

The certificate of analysis for a CBD oil product should clearly tell you how many mgs of CBD are in each bottle. So, if it tells you that there are 513 mgs of CBD in a 30 ml solution, then 1 full dropper of CBD oil with 1 ml of solution will contain approximately 17mgs of CBD. The equation is:

Total Mgs of CBD in bottle ÷ 30 mls = mgs of CBD per 1 ml or one dropperful

If you fill the dropper half way, divide the answer by 2. Confirm the volume of the dropper bottle of oil and the dropper itself to make sure you are measuring out the appropriate CBD dosage. The equation remains the same; total mgs of CBD divided by the total mls of oil in the bottle. Adjust measurements accordingly if you discover your dropper holds more or less than 1 ml.

How Long Does CBD Stay in the System?

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Center’s site, CBD has a half-life of about 18-32 hours. That means it takes roughly a week to leave your system.

How Do I Choose a Reputable CBD Company?

Enough with the CBD madness! We decided to do a focus study group over a period of 30 days to see if the CBD was working for us.

We bought 1000mg CBD oil from a grocery store, 1000mg of chronic flavor from a smoke shop, 1000mg natural from a cannabis dispensary, 1000mg of “Focus” CBD from a local gas station and a Vanilla CBD oil online to test on our staff (we are lab rats). The results were all over the place, as we expected. The only product that had a third party lab testing certificate of analysis was the Vanilla CBD we found online. Everyone seemed to agree that they like it the most too.

Here is a quick recap:

  • CBD from the gas station was the worst performer from a taste and efficacy standpoint. The fact that it was called Focus and it actually did the exact opposite, we won’t be buying anymore from the guy around the corner.
  • The Whole Foods had some nice looking CBD products, but that’s about where it ended for us. It was overpriced and there was no discernable difference in how it made some us seasoned vets feel.
  • The dispensary CBD was good. Really good. However, it is Full Spectrum and derived from cannabis, so it is a big no-no for those who might have to take a drug test.
  • The Sugar and Kush CBD tincture 1000mg not only worked, but it tasted delicious. This one is a hemp derived CBD, with the lab report on their website, so no risk of failing a drug test with this product.

How Can I Pass A CBD Oil Drug Test, Guaranteed?

Your employer, or potential employer, should provide you with a Drug Testing Policy Statement that should include a Scope of Testing section. There you should learn what drugs they are actually testing you for, and cannabidiol (CBD) probably is not one of them. If it isn’t, then you want to make sure your CBD is made from a pure CBD isolate which would then ensure there is no THC.

But the most guaranteed way to make sure you don’t test positive on your drug test…

Just buy a THC free CBD product already!

Will CBD put you at risk of flunking your drug test?