Cannabidiol, or CBD, has gained a lot of popularity in the natural wellness space over the past few years. CBD has attracted users of all ages and backgrounds as a natural solution for anxiety, pain, sleep, and more. The mainstream adoption of this cannabinoid is due in large part to the following:
- It can be sourced from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC, which is able to be cultivated and processed in all 50 states.
- CBD sourced from hemp as described above is able to be sold online and in brick and mortar retail locations; hemp-derived CBD sales are not limited to dispensaries.
- CBD is non-intoxicating. This means that it can deliver the therapeutic benefits of cannabis, but without the “high” assocciated with THC.
Given CBD’s positioning as the non-intoxicating, mass-market alternative to THC one might assume that it is drug test-friendly, but in reality that is not always the case.
Let’s break down everything you need to know about cannabis drug testing and CBD consumption!
What are drug screens testing for?
Standard drug screens, like the kind administered by employers or probation officers, test for the presence of THC in your system. THC is the compound that gives cannabis its intoxicating, or psychotropic, effect. It is very rare to see CBD as a marker on a drug screening, but it is possible. Military personnel may be subject to more robust screenings that include CBD. We’ll save our rant on the ethical implications of that for another time…
“So, if I’m only taking CBD products I should be good, right?”
To better understand how CBD supplementation affects THC screenings, let’s break down the different forms of hemp-derived CBD extracts:
- Full Spectrum: contains THC at or below the legal 0.3% limit plus minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavinoids, and essential fatty acids.
- Broad Spectrum: contains 0% THC, but still retains the other compounds present in full spectrum extracts.
- Isolate: Pure CBD, nothing else.
If you take broad spectrum or isolate-based CBD products, you shouldn’t have any problem passing a drug test. Full spectrum products, on the other hand, can be a little trickier.
Although the amount of THC in a given full spectrum CBD product is minimal, it can still detected on a drug test. There are different factors at play that will ultimately determine whether or not your full spectrum intake causes a failed test. We’ll review those factors next, but first we want to address the difference between broad spectrum and isolate.
Types of CBD: Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate
If both types of products are THC-free, why should you choose one over the other? The answer lies in something called the entourage effect.
The entourage effect follows the logic that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, making the case that CBD is more effective when it has the support of all those other naturally-occurring cannabinoid compounds. Broad spectrum extracts still contain some of those supporting compounds that assist CBD in getting the job done more effectively. Isolate, on the other hand, does not.
CBD isolate isn’t necessarily thedirty word that many CBD marketers have you believe it is. Most marketing around CBD products tout the benefit of full spectrum and the entourage effect (for good reason), but isolate has its time and place. In pharmaceutical or clinical settings where high levels of standardization are required and the influence of “an entourage” can interfere with medical treatment, CBD isolate becomes a very necessary tool. However, the primary drawback of isolate vs full or broad spectrum products should be noted.
Isolate has a narrow therapeutic window when compared to full or broad spectrum CBD. Meaning, there is a smaller margin of error when it comes to dosing effectively. The effects gained from isolate don’t seem to last as long as those from full or broad spectrum products either.
In short, broad spectrum is going to be your best bet if you are subject to THC screenings because it provides a more efficacious THC-free solution.
Full Spectrum CBD and Drug Tests
There are certain factors to consider when it comes to determining the likelihood of full spectrum CBD causing THC to be detected on a drug test. The primary factors at play are:
- Frequency and volume of dosing
- Time between last dose and drug test
- Ingestion method
Frequency and volume of full spectrum dosing
If you have been taking full spectrum CBD everyday (or most days) for months on end, then chances are the trace amount of THC in each dose has built up in your system. You won’t feel “high” from that build up at all, but it can result in a failed drug test.
Different full spectrum products have different amounts of THC in them. Usually, the THC potency has a direct positive correlation with CBD potency. In other words, the more CBD is present in each dose, the more THC is present (up to that 0.3% limit, of course). So, higher strength doses will increase the likelihood of THC building up in your system and being detectable on a drug test.
If you have only consumed a small amount of THC once, then the metabolites should be clear from your system within a couple of days. Moderate use (few times per week) can extend that window out to 10-14 days. Light, daily use bumps it up to 20-30 days, whereas heavy, chronic use can mean up to 60 days before your system is completely clear.
Time between last dose and drug test
The tricky thing about cannabinoids and drug testing is the fact that cannabinoids are fat soluble. This means that cannabinoids like THC can be stored in fat cells throughout your body, making the “detox” process a lengthier one.
THC metabolites can remain present in your system for a couple of days all the way up to multiple months after last use. The actual timeframe is dependent on factor #1 mentioned above and factor #3 which we will dive into shortly.
Your ability to break down fat is going to have a direct effect on your ability to eliminate THC from your system. If you tend to hold onto fat, then you might be holding onto THC as well. Drinking a lot of water and engaging in exercise to speed up the fat-burning process can be helpful in eliminating THC metabolites prior to drug testing.
At the risk of confusing everybody more, try not to engage in high intensity exercise the same day you are being drug tested. Exercise can in fact release those metabolites from fat cells, so you would want to give your body a time to eliminate those metabolites before the test is administered.
If hemp/cannabis is smoked or vaped, the THC levels in the body will drop faster than if you ingest it. Edibles take longer to break down in the body and leave your system.
What about topicals?
Good news! Topical CBD application, even using full spectrum extracts, will not influence drug test results. Notable exception to this rule: transdermal patches.
The moral of the story
If your job is dependent on your ability to pass a THC screen, always err on the side of caution. Avoid full spectrum products in favor of broad spectrum or isolates and utilize topical solutions whenever possible.
If you have already been consuming full spectrum CBD products regularly, but just found out that you need to submit to a drug screening here’s what we suggest:
Discontinue use immediately.
Drink a lot of water. Not an obscene amount, but enough to ensure you are fully hydrated and creating an environment that promotes detoxification.
Exercise. Burning fat releases THC metabolites from the fat cells they are stored in, which helps speed up elimination.
Be honest. Depending on the situation, it may be in your best interest to be transparent about your CBD use. Show the exact product that you have been using and the certificate of analysis associated with the product. Use your best judgment to decide whether or not this will be tolerated by the testing party.
Speaking of certificates of analysis, always check the CoA before purchasing/consuming a product labeled THC-free. This will be your best bet for verifying whether or not there is THC present, or how much THC is present in a full spectrum product.
FYI: TONIC’s flagship tinctures – Flex, OG, and Chill – are all available in broad spectrum upon request.