With 14% of Americans taking cannabidiol (CBD) for everything from pain relief to skincare, it’s no surprise that many wonder how it could affect eligibility for medical insurance or work.
Will CBD cause a positive test result when it comes to mandatory drug testing?
While you’re right to be concerned, the answer really depends on whether you’re taking full-spectrum, broad-spectrum THC Free or a CBD isolate, and whether or not your CBD is extracted from medical marijuana or hemp.
Generally speaking, you won’t be required to undergo drug testing for medical insurance. That’s because the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies to offer coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions. Depending on the courts and the actions of the current administration, that may change in the future. For now, no testing is required.
Employers, however, can and sometimes do require employees to undergo drug testing. Primarily, they’re trying to determine whether or not you might have impaired judgment or consciousness.
The good news is, unless your employer tests specifically for CBD, it won’t appear on a standard screening panel if you are using an isolated form, such as broad-spectrum THC Free or CBD isolate.
On its own, CBD has been the focus of quite a lot of research because it appears to have the broadest therapeutic value. However, depending on the way your CBD product was processed, there may be some residual THC present in your CBD oil.
In the meantime, it can only help to know more about CBD, how long it’s in your system, and how your body metabolizes it.
Cannabis vs. hemp—what’s the difference and does it matter?
The Agricultural Act of 2018 Farm Bill Act, and its predecessor, the 2014 act, legalized hemp as a crop in the U.S. Although closely related, hemp differs from medical marijuana in one crucial way: hemp has less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in medical cannabis.
Besides being a source of CBD, hemp is used in the production of commercial and industrial products. Hemp clothing, textiles, and rope are a few of the products that use hemp. Others include bioplastics, paper, and biofuel.
Recreational and medical marijuana, by contrast, have two major cannabinoids—THC and CBD—as well as a host of minor cannabinoids. The strength and ratio of THC to CBD varies by strain, with the other cannabinoids—CBG, CBN, and others—having an impact on how those strains of medical marijuana affect users.
CBD oil formulations
Full-spectrum CBD, also known as whole plant CBD, refers to cannabis products that include most, if not all, of the plant’s other cannabinoids and terpenes. Full-spectrum contains not only CBD but also leaves most of the other cannabinoids and terpenes in the CBD oil.
Full-spectrum CBD is minimally processed to include all of the cannabis plant’s constituent compounds. The upside is that full-spectrum CBD is a more “natural” product. The bad news is that it’s likely to contain THC in very very small but varying percentages, which complicates matters when you face drug testing. The THC will show up on a standard drug panel.
Broad-spectrum THC Free CBD includes the same compounds as full-spectrum, except for THC, which has been completely removed. By incorporating the other compounds found in full-spectrum, users reap the benefits of the entourage effect without the presence of THC. However, testing may reveal the presence of other cannabinoids.
CBD isolate is produced in a solid or powder form that is 99% pure CBD. This means an isolate has had all the other compounds removed. The consumer’s end product for CBD isolate varies depending on the delivery mechanism used.
The ways you take or use CBD makes a difference.
The way CBD affects your body and how fast it affects you depends on how it’s administered. You can eat it in the form of dietary supplements, such as gummies. Oils and tinctures are designed to be used orally, as are capsules. Salves, balms, and creams or lotions are applied topically. You can also vape, smoke, or use CBD as an oral spray.
Edibles, whether gummies, lozenges or CBD “candies,” are slower to metabolize than vaping or smoking and sublingual sprays. It can take as long as 2 hours to feel the effect of CBD. Also, the liver partially metabolizes CBD, reducing the amount that reaches your system.
Sublingual drops and sprays work more quickly. Inhalation (vaping or smoking dried buds) metabolizes the quickest. In both cases, the CBD enters the bloodstream faster.
CBD-infused balms, creams, and salves are for topical applications. But it isn’t easy to deliver the CBD through the dermal layer. Skin is a barrier that is difficult to penetrate, which requires a highly potent cream or balm. With topical applications, CBD’s effects are limited to the immediate area of use.
Will CBD show up in a drug test?
If the drug screening panel includes a test for CBD, it will show up, depending on how, when, and how frequently you use it. On average, you can expect CBD to stay in your system for 2 – 5 days. But other factors will also play a role.
How much CBD you use will be a factor; the higher your dosage, the longer it stays in your system. Likewise, how frequently you use CBD will have an impact because CBD builds up in your body. Your body is another variable; your BMI, hydration, and metabolism will impact how quickly CBD leaves your system. Even whether or not you ate before or after taking CBD influences how quickly it enters and leaves the bloodstream.
Routine 5- and 10-panel drug testing checks for THC, not CBD. However, be aware of an October 2019 report in the New York Times that CBD can trigger false positives on the more common drug tests.
Urine testing is the federal testing standard for most employers. Department of Transportation testing can detect cannabis as long as 30 days after use. Typically, a 5-panel test is the one DOT and the federal government uses. The test is for cocaine, amphetamines and meth, opiates, PCP, and THC.
Hair tests are the most far-reaching test; they can detect CBD for 90 days or longer. The test checks for cannabinoids in oils your body incorporates into your hair. However, this test is notorious for false positives.
Saliva tests are another way to test for CBD; they’ll detect it within minutes and up to 36 hours after taking CBD. Again, frequent or heavy CBD use tends to expand the time frame for results.
It complicates matters that there is no standard dose of CBD across brand names and products. Nor does the Food & Drug Administration regulate hemp-based CBD, which it considers a dietary supplement. As well, product labeling is often unreliable for THC levels.
Hemp-based CBD isn’t likely to test positive for two reasons: low THC levels and low dosages. If your medical coverage or job depends on passing a drug test, consider using an isolate product. You may also want to make a pre-test revelation that you are taking CBD for a specific condition to avoid any possible complications with your insurance and employment.