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Unless you've spent the last few years hiding under a rock, you've probably noticed the exploding popularity of cannabidiol, or CBD. Whether it's cannabis dispensaries, health food stores, gas stations or ice cream parlors, you can hardly walk into a store without CBD-infused tinctures, topicals and edibles staring back at you. As CBD cements its place as a household name in the health and wellness industry though, questions are still swirling about the cannabinoid's social acceptability and legal standing.
So, now that CBD is available over the counter in all 50 states, can you fail a drug test due to CBD tinctures or handfuls of infused gummy bears? In short, yes - but it isn't because cops or employers have it out for CBD. To get to the bottom of the CBD drug test dilemma, you have to start at the roots.
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is one of many cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plant. Like its chemical cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD is known for its medicinal purposes, specifically when it comes to quelling anxiety, easing physical pain and reducing epileptic seizures. But unlike THC, CBD does not cause intoxication or a high feeling, giving the more dormant cannabinoid a leg up when it comes to acceptance in mainstream society.
As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD was legalized across the US alongside hemp. Because the new federal law designated that any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC qualifies as hemp, farmers in every corner of the country quickly purchased CBD-rich cannabis seeds and sewed acres of non-psychoactive hemp for production into tinctures, topicals and the rest.
Because CBD is a relatively new cannabinoid on the scene, CBD drug test technology isn't widely available. Most employers don't particularly care about a natural drug that doesn't get you high, so hiring departments do not typically test employees or applicants for CBD. But, just because your boss doesn't care about cannabidiol itself doesn't mean that CBD can't get you in trouble.
As we mentioned earlier, America's current CBD industry is still in its infant stages and is not yet fully regulated by federal agencies like the FDA or USDA. For that reason, CBD oils, edibles, and vape cartridges that you find at head shops, health stores and gas stations aren't always what they seem - or what the label says they are.
Despite a clear 0.3% THC limit set by federal law, hemp-derived CBD products have routinely been tested and found to contain significantly higher percentages of THC than advertised. Similarly, even if a CBD product contains the legally allowed amount of THC, repeated use could still build up a higher concentration in the body. Even though you may have consumed legal CBD and never took a puff of a joint, you could still fail a drug test for THC.
When labs do drug screenings for THC, they are not looking for just the presence of the drug, but instead a level that would indicate purposeful consumption. For frequent CBD users who may have consumed uncertain quantities of THC, the difference between producing a positive or negative test can often rely on what those limits are and what type of drug test you are given.
In urine tests, screeners only report positive tests if THC concentration eclipses 50 nanograms per milliliter. In layman's terms, that means that urine tests can still turn up positive up to 15 days after last consumption, even if that consumption wasn't on purpose.
In THC tests performed using saliva or blood, the cut-off value is much lower, at anywhere from 1 to 4 nanograms per milliliter. Practically, that means that THC is only detectable by those methods only 1-3 days after last consumption. At the other end of the spectrum, THC tests performed on hair are significantly more sensitive, with THC metabolites still showing up in screenings up to 90 days after last consumption.
As the name suggests, full spectrum CBD contains the widest array of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural chemicals. Using high-CBD hemp flower strains, full spectrum CBD extracts are a concentrated version of the entire plant. Full spectrum CBD products still have to contain less than 0.3% THC to qualify as federally legal hemp, but because the industry still has such little regulatory oversight, plenty of products containing too much THC have made it to retail shelves.
Broad spectrum CBD, on the other hand, shares a similar extraction method as full spectrum concentrates, but in an additional step of processing, manufacturers remove as much THC as possible. By removing THC after extraction, producers are able to retain the terpenes, minor cannabinoids, and CBD content of a full spectrum concentrate, but with less potential for failed THC tests or accidental intoxication.
Finally, CBD isolate is processed even more thoroughly than broad spectrum oils, leaving pure CBD crystals, powder or oils that can achieve up to 99% purity. Products made with CBD isolate carry the lowest risk of inadvertent THC consumption and are least likely to cause a failed drug test. Because isolates are basically pure CBD though, they lack the entourage effect found in full and broad spectrum hemp products.
So if you're still wondering 'Does CBD show up on a drug screening?' the technical answer is no. But until the US government steps in to properly regulate the hemp industry, CBD products sold in head shops, grocery stores, and gas stations can still contain enough THC to trigger a failed screening - even if they don't get you high. To make sure you're all clear at your next HR meeting, only purchase third-party lab tested CBD products and do your homework before you buy.
Do you consume CBD and worry about future drug tests? We want to hear your story in the comments below!