From your anxious dog to your favorite beauty influencer, it seems like everyone is using CBD for something these days. For many people, the allure of using cannabidiol products, aka "CBD," is that they supposedly don't contain tetrahydrocannabinol or "THC," the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that gets you stoned. Without THC, you can enjoy the relaxing and anxiety-reducing effects of CBD, and not worry about getting high, breaking the law, or failing a drug test. Or at least, that's what everyone thinks.
When you have your urine screened for marijuana, the test typically looks for the presence of a chemical called THC-COOH, which is essentially a processed version of THC after it's been in your bloodstream. But could using CBD products, which supposedly don't contain THC, affect your ability to pass a urine test for marijuana? Actually, yes.
For starters, it's entirely possible that you could consume an otherwise legal CBD product and test positive for THC on a drug screen, explains Justin Amesbury, director of research and development at Lazarus Naturals, a company that specializes in making CBD more accessible to veterans, people on long-term disability, and low-income households. Many people don't realize that almost all "full spectrum" CBD products (meaning they contain a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes) will contain trace amounts of THC, even if it claims that there's "no THC detected," he says. "This is rooted in the fact that CBD and THC are very similar molecules in terms of their physical and chemical properties, and are very difficult to separate, especially at industrial scale," he says. And, even if you're consuming a CBD "isolate" (meaning CBD has been separated from the plant), there's still a chance that it could contain THC residue that can't get washed off during the isolation process, he says.
To make things more complicated, when CBD products are manufactured in a lab before they're sold, they have to be tested and analyzed to ensure that they contain less than 0.3% THC, which is the amount that's legal for hemp and cannabis-derived CBD products in the United States. In these tests, there's something called the "limit of quantitation" or "LOQ," which is the lowest level at which a lab can really determine the concentration of something, Amesbury says. The problem is that many lab LOQs for potency aren't as precise as, say, what a drug test can detect, simply due to cost and efficiency concerns, he says.
Urine tests for drugs can pick up THC concentrations as low as 0.000018mg/g, which is about two times lower than a great LOQ, and about 200,000 times lower than methodologies used at third-party labs, Amesbury says. "So, it's not necessarily that CBD will show up on a drug test, but more so that drug tests for THC metabolites are more sensitive than the methods employed at cannabis testing laboratories, and it is very challenging to remove absolutely all of the THC present in a hemp extract," he says.
This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to give up your beloved CBD lotion or tincture. But until the manufacturing and testing technology catches up with the projected billion-dollar CBD industry, you have to take your chances when you use a CBD product, especially if you need to pass a urine drug test anytime soon. "Even if a given test report states that there were no detectable levels of THC in a product, there is little in the way of assurances that there is, in fact, no THC whatsoever in the product in question, and that you wouldn't test positive on a drug screen," Amesbury says. Not to mention, CBD isn't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so there's no real telling whether the products and ingredients are safe — even if it seems like literally everyone is using them.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws.