Will Hemp Oils and Other Similar Products Come up Positive on Drug Tests?
Hemp products have become very popular in North America over the past few years. With that popularity comes the question, "will hemp come up on a drug test"?
The answer is no.
But its not a simple no, so let's dig a little deeper.
A quick intro to the confusion
First things first. We need to define our terms.A quick intro to the confusion
When we talk about hemp oil, we are talking about products that contain zero THC but do contain CBD. For this reason, we use hemp oil and CBD oil interchangeably.
Hemp seed oil on the other hand, means products that do not contain either THC or CBD. Hemp seed oil is mostly used in soaps and skincare products as a moisturizer, but it can also be found in food items like salad dressings.
For the purposes of this article, we are never referring to products using hemp seed oil, because they are not a concern as it relates to drug tests. What is a concern for drug testing is THC, so we'll start there.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a cannabinoid present in cannabis plants. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring chemical compounds. There are hundreds of cannabinoids, but THC is one of the two most popular (the other being CBD).
THC is psychoactive. It alters mental state - it's the thing that causes people to feel "high". THC causes sensations of euphoria, changed levels of concentration, relaxation and sedation. The occurrence and strength of these sensations depends on the type and dose of THC consumed, as well as other factors like environmental stimulus and an individual's personal tolerance level.
In simpler terms, THC is like alcohol. Just because one beer makes one person sleepy doesn't mean one beer will make all people sleepy. The same goes for THC.
And just like alcohol and other drugs too, it is illegal to drive or operate machinery under the influence of cannabis. (For the purposes of this article, we're referring to legality in Canada and the United States). What this really means is that it is illegal to drive while impaired by THC. CBD won't get you high, so it's not what drug tests are looking for.
What is it then?
What are the drug tests looking for?
The primary purpose of drug testing is to detect the presence of one or more drugs in a person's urine, blood, saliva, hair or sweat. If detected, the secondary purpose is to determine if the level of a substance has caused impairment or physiological changes. A drug test can be done for illegal drugs (ex cocaine), prescription (ex opioids) or legal/regulated substances (ex alcohol, cannabis).
One of the most common situations for a drug test to be administered is following a motor vehicle collision - or for motorists in general. According to Centre for Disease Control (CDC), 16% of motor vehicle accidents involve drugs, marijuana use being second most common. Alcohol is number one. Other commonly detected drugs associated with accidents are opioids, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cocaine.
Professional athletes are often required to take a drug test prior to competing. Or in the case of the Olympics, after winning a medal. In this case, the drug test is looking for detectable levels of prohibited substances that enhance an athlete's performance (ex steroids).
Employers sometimes require employees to take a drug test as well. These workplace tests are typically looking for the presence of legal OR illegal drugs which cause mental/physical impairment - and in turn be a safety issue for the employee and/or members of the public (ex forklift driver).
Now that we've covered the purpose of drug tests generally, we'll focus specifically on CBD and THC.
How do drug screenings work with CBD/THC products?
Drug screening is not designed to detect CBD, because its not responsible for causing impairment. We'll come back to why you can still test positive with hemp oil or other similar products in a minute. But before we do, THC screening.
Drug tests screen for THC-COOH, which is a metabolite of THC. A metabolite is a substance after it has been metabolized or processed in the body. Tests are not necessarily looking for zero THC, rather a THC levels below the required cut-off (varies). There are several ways to test for THC, the most common of which is a urine drug screening.
Urine drug screening is common for many substances, including THC. According to the Mayo Clinic, THC metabolites can have detectable levels in urine for:
- 3 days - single use
- 5 days - moderate use (4x per week)
- 10 days - heavy use (daily)
- 30 days - chronic heavy use
THC can be detected in plasma within a few seconds. Peak concentrations are obtained within 3-10 min of consumption (Ramzy and Priefer), and only remains detectable for about 5 hours. How the THC was consumed plays a role in this window, as does the length/depth of inhalation and how long held in lungs before exhaling (combustible). Blood tests are not very common since THC leaves the bloodstream very quickly as compared to urine.
Like a positive urine drug screen, the "passable amount" of THC in the blood varies by location, legal framework, industry and purpose.
The verdict is...
A routine drug test does not screen for CBD, so using hemp oil or other related products will not cause a positive drug test. That said, the CBD industry is not strictly regulated in the United States, and in Canada there's a big grey market. So it is possible to fail a drug test with a CBD product which is why we'll talk next about how this can happen.
My drug test still showed positive. What happened?
What happened if I fail a drug test but I only used hemp oil or other related CBD products? Well, one of a few things may have happened.
You can fail a drug test with CBD when CBD oil and other related hemp products are supposed to be THC-free. Generally this means they contain less than 0.3% THC. If your drug test still showed positive, your CBD product may have had cross contamination during the manufacturing process.
In the many states in the US, CBD oil is legal but loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The industry lacks oversight, so CBD products lack labeling accuracy. Usually, it's the opposite way i.e. hempseed oil is labeled as CBD oil to increase profit margins. But the same can happen where a cannabis product containing THC is labelled as CBD.
In Canada, CBD is regulated under the same Cannabis Act that governs THC. But there's a huge grey market of CBD products available to consumers. What's troubling is that these grey market products are often not sourced responsibly, not tested and not reviewed for their health claims. There's a lot of room for error here, both cross contamination and mislabeling.
Its unlikely but still possible to test positive on a drug test after being exposed to secondhand smoke. Most combustible cannabis has THC content, which could be detected specifically on the hair.
Do the tests distinguish that the CBD hemp oil is not from Marijuana?
No, drug tests do not distinguish that CBD oil is from hemp and not marijuana. Remember, tests are designed to detect the cannabinoid THC or its metabolite THC-COOH, not the type of cannabis plant that it came from. The test doesn't care if your product is made from hemp or marijuana plants or both, it only cares if there are detectable levels of THC present in your urine, blood, etc.
Still a bit confused on the basics of the cannabis sativa plant? Not to worry, we've got you covered with this helpful video.
How do I choose a quality hemp product that does not contain THC?
There are a few things you can do to ensure you choose a hemp oil or other CBD product that does not contain THC. Here's our tips:
- Purchase CBD from a reliable source.
- Avoid products that make medical/health claims.
- Choose products that state the amount of CBD in the product.
- Go for CBD isolate rather than full spectrum CBD products, which are more likely to contain trace amounts of THC.
As we mentioned above, hemp products are sort of haphazardly regulated. In Canada, CBD oil falls under the Cannabis Act and can only legally be made by licensed producers (LP's). LP's have strict sourcing guidelines, but the flourishing grey market certainly does not! It's the opposite in the United States, where in many states CBD oil is not only legal but unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. So its important to be diligent about your hemp products!
A final note
We started this article by defining our terms. In the cannabis space, terms are sometimes misunderstood and therefore misused. As we strive to overcome the stigmas of cannabis that go back to decades of criminalization, precision in how we talk about cannabis and its research is really important.
We challenge you to read all of your sources carefully, paying attention to how each article uses its terms. And if it all seems a bit overwhelming, take it slow. There's a place for every woman in cannabis. We're glad to have you here with us at empyri.
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Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri. Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO