It’s an unfortunate reality that drug testing has become mandatory for many jobs throughout the industrialized world. This is usually the case for government positions, for work within various industrial sectors such as in mining and oil, plus many more organizations that simply require drug testing to reduce insurance premiums. While many feel that this is an affront to their individual rights, under some circumstances it is necessary.
For example, in many cases, it is required to reduce legal liability and prevent workplace accidents. Ultimately though, drug testing is on the rise, and screening requirements are now applied in much grayer areas than before.
Some of the new questions revolve around the use of medical marijuana, which while still an illicit drug at the federal level, has been legalized by many states across America. It is also legal in many countries around the world. Plus, increasingly people are using non-THC cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), as an alternative medicine. What does it mean to test positive for medical marijuana these days? Will other cannabinoids like CBD cause a positive screening? With the ever-evolving world of cannabis as an alternative medicine, the supposedly black and white results of drug testing are long gone.
The Science Behind Drug Tests
Under most circumstances, employers will follow the drug testing guidelines and procedures laid out by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These procedures stand up in court and place the employer on solid legal footing if there were any issues. In terms of testing for marijuana, the SAMHSA drug screening specifically tests for the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects, THC. This is done through urine analysis, testing using an immunoassay which specifically targets THC’s main metabolite called 11-nor-delta 9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH). An immunoassay is a biochemical test that is meant to detect macromolecules in a solution using an antibody.
According to SAMHSA, a positive test for marijuana is set at immunoassay at 50 ng/mL. However, there are instances where a positive test will come back with under 50 ng/mL. In these situations, a secondary test is performed. This secondary test is called a Gas Chromatography / Mass Spectrometry test and is only able to detect THC-COOH.
These days, if you are a medical marijuana user in a state where it has been legalized, you are protected if you have been prescribed it. This is because it is considered a medication just like other pharmaceuticals (opioids are one example) that can trigger positive test results.
Does Drug Screening Detect CBD?
For many people who use CBD oil for medicinal purposes, the risk of testing positive for marijuana is still a major concern. After all, a positive result could mean being turned down for job opportunities, or serious repercussions with current employers. Cannabidiol users should rest assured that under most normal circumstances, the risk for having a positive result from CBD oil use is non-existent. This is because the SAMHSA test procedures are only designed to test for the one psychoactive compound within cannabis: THC.
With that being said, under certain circumstances, there is a small risk that CBD use could lead to drug test problems. It all depends on the sourcing of CBD and dosage. In terms of dose, if you are currently using extremely high amounts of CBD in the realm of 1000-2000 mg daily, this could potentially lead to a false positive with the SAMHSA. While extremely rare, there is a chance that other non-THC cannabinoids could cross react with the immunoassay to produce a false result. Under this situation though, the secondary gas chromatography/mass spectrometry test would subsequently confirm no THC presence because it is much more accurate and precise.
The other situation which might lead to a positive test result is when the source of the CBD comes from a strain of cannabis that does contain some THC. The safest sources for CBD products are those that contain no THC, or at least no detectable levels. This usually means sourcing CBD from industrial hemp plants, because they legally are required to contain less than 0.3% THC to fall under this classification. Newer medical marijuana strains, claiming to be high in CBD, could still contain measurable levels. Hemp products typically contain only 1/300th the amount of THC when compared to other predominantly THC strains. If you are currently taking high CBD doses (1000-2000 mg), this tiny percentage of THC adds up to a 3-6 mg dose.
Will this result in a positive result? Current research seems to show that if you use CBD oil that contains a low level of THC, it could lead to a positive test result in roughly 11-23% of assays. But again, this is extremely rare. First, these are only under circumstances where the doses are extremely high and the vast majority of CBD users are taking far below this threshold. Second, even in situations where someone is taking high doses of CBD oil, the chance that the CBD oil would contain the necessary levels of THC to be measurable, is also unlikely.
With this caveat in mind, it’s important to always source scientifically vetted sources of hemp based CBD oil. This way, you can determine exactly what cannabinoids, and in what amounts, are going into your body. Also, if you have only on a rare occasion used any cannabinoid, it should exit your system within a few days. However, if you are a daily user, there is a tendency for the cannabinoids to build up in your system, and can potentially lead to positive test results even after weeks of disuse.
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