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Can CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test? Ask a Pharmacist

Posted by Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD on Apr 30th 2020

Can CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test? Ask a Pharmacist

Full spectrum CBD oils contain the cannabis compound THC, but what does that mean for those of us who have to take a drug test?

By now, you probably know that CBD products won't get you high. But can CBD extracts from the cannabis plant make you flag positive on a drug test?

It's a simple question... with a not so simple answer.

Can CBD oil make you fail a drug test?

If you have a job that requires operating heavy machinery or some type of equipment, you most likely have to take a drug test from time to time. Most of these drug screenings are looking for THC in addition to other illegal drugs, but this does not include CBD.

While a drug screening test might not look for hemp-derived CBD, they can look for THC, which is present in all full spectrum CBD products. Most CBD products are derived from specific strains of cannabis sativa, or hemp.2 According to the federal Farm Bill of 2018, hemp is defined as any cannabis sativa plant with no more than 0.3% THC. That's far from enough THC to make you feel stoned like you would from marijuana plants. But is it enough THC to fail a urine or hair test?

The answer is yes.

Even though hemp plants have a low amount of THC at no more than 0.3%, that's enough to test positive during a drug test. 3 We've found countless news reports of people losing their jobs and facing legal charges as a result of testing positive while using CBD products with the federally legal amount of THC. As unfair as it is, this kind of thing does happen.

With this in mind, it's good to avoid CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC if you think your workplace will conduct drug screening tests soon. And to be honest, if you know a drug test is in your near future, you should avoid ingestible CBD products altogether. That's because even pure CBD isolate products, which go through a different process to remove THC, can cause you to test positive on marijuana drug tests. Which brings us to our next topic: what are the different types of CBD oils?

Types of CBD Oil that can make you fail a drug test

Different Types of CBD Oil

If you are taking CBD oil while trying to pass a drug test, you will want to avoid products that say full spectrum, or products that contain trace amounts of THC. Workplace drug testing is generally looking for illegal drugs, which thankfully no longer includes CBD. However, if you are taking CBD products that say THC-free or CBD isolate, you may want to think twice!

Unfortunately, avoiding THC isn't as easy as choosing "THC-free" pure CBD isolates or broad spectrum CBD. In a 2017 study, researchers found that many products advertised as "THC-free," actually tested positive for THC.4 If THC exposure is something on your checklist for purchasing a CBD product, you might want to avoid CBD use altogether.

Even if a CBD product is advertised as "THC-free," that doesn't necessarily mean it is. That's just one of the many reasons you should always look for a third-party lab test. A third party lab report will give you the information you need to make an educated decision as to what type of CBD oil you have purchased, and whether it's worth the risk.

Broad Spectrum & CBD Isolate Drug Tests

Many online resources claim that there is no need to worry about failing urine drug tests if you're taking pure CBD isolate. Sorry, but that's just not true. Even CBD providers themselves, who are aware of the liability they take when making claims, have come out of the woodwork to say that isolate and broad spectrum CBD products are without risk of flagging positive during workplace drug testing.

While it is unlikely that CBD will trigger a false positive on a marijuana drug test, there are a couple exceptions to this rule that you should know about.

According to a 2012 study, a specific type of drug test used in labs across America can't tell the difference between CBD and THC. 5 We don't know exactly how many labs use this specific method. But if this fluid testing method detects CBD in your system, it can flag you for a false positive for THC.

If you're one of the unlucky ones, 100% pure CBD could actually make you fail a drug test.

The New York Times published an article about this in 2019, and it reminded us how little we actually know about CBD and detection thresholds in drug screening tests.

Just last year, a medically reviewed study found that a cannabinoid known as CBN, often called CBD's "cousin," can trigger a false positive in lab tests for marijuana use—even in small doses.

This study only looked at three of the most common cannabinoids found in hemp, and one of them failed a test for drugs. 6 This is alarming news, especially since cannabis plants could contain more than a hundred different cannabinoids, almost none of which have been found to produce any negative side effects in the human body (except for THC).

While many who use CBD products pass their drug tests just fine, you should keep these risks in mind when taking CBD. And be especially wary of any CBD brands that claim you can take their product and pass a drug test. Any drug test has the potential to have CBD show as a positive THC result, even if the THC has been remediated through liquid chromatography or gas chromatography.

Employers Drug Testing for CBD Oil

Every employer that tests for THC does so under the incorrect notion that THC remains 100% illegal under federal law. But last year, the USDA announced that THC derived from hemp is now federally legal. Because drug tests cannot determine the origin of the THC it detects, whether from a legal hemp CBD product or illegal marijuana, businesses should not be allowed to use positive THC test results as grounds for termination. But most employers don't see it that way—yet.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) says that employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.7 If your doctor recommends that you use CBD for certain conditions and then you test positive for THC and fail a drug test, then what?

So far, this theory has only been tested against claims related to medical marijuana, not against hemp-derived CBD. But the USDA declared that hemp-derived THC is legal under federal law with a cutoff limit of 0.3% THC content during the manufacturing process. That means this issue has become ripe for a court case, but as of yet, no such court case has emerged.

If you would like CBD protections in your state, contact your state legislators. Tell them to pass laws that protect cannabis consumers. You might also bring up the fact that most employers don't test for any opioid pain medications, but CBD users have to worry about getting fired. It doesn't make much sense for those of us who want to feel better without the stigma associated with illegal drug use.

Can You Sue a CBD Company?

Two women sued a CBD company because they claimed that company's products caused them to fail drug tests. In another case, a New York man sued another CBD company for failing a test that cost him his job, according to Consumer Reports.8

Fair warning: our hemp oil infused CBD products contain a legal dose of THC.

However, CBD manufacturers are not responsible for an individual's workplace tests, unless they are misleading with their product labeling. If you get fired for a positive drug test result while using Cornbread Hemp, that’s not right, but it’s also not our liability. Always make sure you know the levels of THC in any product you use. We fully and openly admit and warn you that our CBD products contain trace amounts of THC. And therefore, our products could cause you to fail a urine drug test.

Passing a Drug Test on CBD Oil

To calculate your actual chances of failing a drug test from hemp-derived CBD, we refer to a 2001 study out of Berkley, California. During the study, researchers gave participants up to 0.60 mg of THC per day for 40 days, and only 1 out of the 15 participants failed.9

Although each dose of our organic CBD oil contains slightly more THC than that, this study indicates that our full-spectrum CBD oil is unlikely to produce a positive result on a drug test. That's because the detection thresholds for THC metabolites are usually too high to pick up on trace amounts of THC found in a urine sample.

Regardless, here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of passing a urine drug test if you use CBD:

  • Stop using CBD products two to three weeks before any urine tests.
  • Find out which test you'll be taking: fluid or hair?
  • Track your own THC levels with an at-home test.
  • Drink plenty of water on the day of your test.
  • Talk to your HR department or union steward to change your employer's testing policies.
  • Contact your representatives in state and federal government.

It's also helpful to know that about 5-10% of drug tests produce false positives. This is well-documented, and it's a reason to ask for a re-test if you fail the first time. 10

Final Advice: CBD and Drug Testing is Tricky

Most workplace drug tests are designed to pick up on THC and other illegal drugs, so the odds are in your favor to take CBD oil and pass a drug test. If you think you can respectfully ask your HR department what type of drug test you'll be taking, this can always be helpful information to know.

If your employer does test for THC, you should avoid any CBD products that are labeled full spectrum, as they contain trace amounts of THC that could cause you to fail a drug test. If you don't know whether your product contains THC or not, look for the third party lab report to verify the cannabinoid content of the extract. If no third party lab report is available, don't take it!

Finally, if for some reason you do get drug tested while taking CBD oil, make sure to have a clear and concise plan to speak with your HR department and primary care physician, and even go as far as saving your receipts on your legal CBD oil purchases.

We wish CBD wasn't such a questionable substance when it comes to drug testing. Then again, we wish drug tests didn't screen for cannabis use at all. But for now, this is the way things are.

We encourage you to do proper research before trying any hemp based CBD product, and we urge you to proceed with caution—especially if you have an upcoming drug screening. It is better to assume that any high quality CBD products may contain at least a little THC and that it may show up on a urine test.

Best of luck, and stay safe!

*All rights reserved. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment for any health problems. In addition, the information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.*

References

1.

Urine Testing for Detection of Marijuana: An Advisory. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 8, 1998

2.

Hilderbrand RL. Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine?. Mo Med. 2018;115(4):306-309. Under heading “CBD extracted from Hemp”

3.

Urinary Pharmacokinetic Profile of Cannabinoids Following Administration of Vaporized and Oral Cannabidiol and Vaporized CBD-Dominant Cannabis. J Anal Toxicol. 2020;44(2):109‐125. doi:10.1093/jat/bkz080

4.

Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708–1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

5, 6.

Andrews R, Paterson S. Production of Identical Retention Times and Mass Spectra for Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Following Derivatization with Trifluoracetic Anhydride with 1,1,1,3,3,3-Hexafluoroisopropanol*. Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 36, Issue 1. January/February 2012. Pages 61–65.

7.

What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? ADA National Network. Published July 26, 1990. Accessed July 1, 2020.

8.

Gill LL. Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test? Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test. Published May 15, 2019. Accessed July 1, 2020.

9.

Leson G, Pless P, Grotenhermen F, Kalant H, ElSohly MA. Evaluating the impact of hemp food consumption on workplace drug tests. J Anal Toxicol. 2001;25(8):691-698. doi:10.1093/jat/25.8.691.

10.

Laino C. Drug Tests Not Immune from False Positives. CBS News. Published June 1, 2010. Accessed July 1, 2020. 1st sentence