Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Screen?
Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, has gained a vast amount of popularity among consumers in the past several years. For those people who use CBD for its various applications and health benefits, they may swear by their favorite products and vouch for its effectiveness through and through. For many others, however, CBD carries the stigma associated with marijuana and of young teenagers and adults “being high,” even though this couldn’t be further from the truth.
For some people who are interested in using CBD, either to address a specific issue or to support their general health and wellness, the main reason they haven’t chosen to use CBD is their job. If you work for the government or another industry and/or company that requires drug testing of its employees, you may feel on the fence about this newly popular, hyped-up product. Is it really worth the risk of screening positive for certain chemicals that indicate you are using marijuana? Probably not – but we have some good news. CBD is a distinct cannabinoid that won’t lead to the same conclusion.
What is CBD and How is it Different Than Marijuana?
CBD is one of many naturally occurring cannabinoids (a.k.a chemical compound) found in the cannabis plant. To date, researchers believe there to be over 400 chemicals in the cannabis plant, with 60 or more of them being cannabinoids which may even have opposing effects.
Among these various cannabinoids exists a close cousin of CBD: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant and, most typically, is what politicians and anti-marijuana fanatics tend to cite as a negative component of marijuana legalization. THC produces a sedated and euphoric effect in many people who use it, which may lead to poor outcomes, such as driving under the influence and potentially inflicting harm on themselves or others.
Because of the similarities between CBD and THC, many people associate the negative stigma of THC and “being high” with its non-psychoactive relative – CBD. However, if a CBD product contains little to no THC in it, a person will not have the feeling of being high and will not be impaired in any way.
Is CBD Legal?
In 2018, the Farm Bill was signed, making it federally legal to produce, buy and use CBD, mainly only if it is derived from hemp and does not exceed certain requirements and regulations, particularly around the amount of THC in the products. In most states, CBD products must contain 0.3% THC or less in order to be considered legal under the Farm Bill. The legal landscape of CBD can be complicated, as states have their own jurisdiction on how much THC can be allowed in CBD products, so consumers are encouraged to look up their state’s laws to be well aware of any restrictions and requirements.
As for most medications and products today, consumers typically look to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make sure the foods, drinks, supplements, and medications they are taking are safe to use. Unfortunately, most CBD products are not regulated by the FDA – with the exception of one drug used to treat seizures. With that being said, it is difficult to know exactly what and how much of those chemicals are in them.
Depending on where the plants are harvested and how the CBD is extracted, some products may have higher or lower amounts of THC in them. Because the 2018 Farm Bill only applies to industrial hemp plants, CBD extracted from cannabis plants do not fall under the same regulations. As a result, CBD from a cannabis plant may contain more THC than CBD coming from a hemp plant. This gets us back to the basics when buying new products and the importance of knowing where your products are being sourced from!
Different formulations of CBD products are often advertised as “full-spectrum CBD” or “CBD isolate,” and there is a substantial distinction between the two. Full-spectrum CBD products are those that contain all extracted cannabinoids and plant compounds and are typically extracted from the cannabis plant. In other words, there could be a lot more than only CBD in full-spectrum products. In products that are advertised as “hemp-derived full-spectrum,” the Farm Bill regulations apply and the product should only contain 0.3% of THC or less. CBD isolate comes from the hemp plant and does not contain any additional terpenes, flavonoids, or cannabinoids. In a lab test of the product, CBD isolate should generate a report of CBD presence only.
Based on your current or prospective occupation, it is important to consider what type of CBD you like, but also what type of product formulations are appropriate for your job. While there are beneficial health effects of terpenes and other cannabinoids, you want to be sure that, should you be tested for drugs before being hired or while working, you are limiting your exposure to any chemical compounds other than CBD or THC under the allowed limits.
If you have a job where drug testing is either required upon hire or can be administered randomly once you are an employee, you may be wondering exactly how the tests identify THC and in what quantities.
According to the Mayo Clinic and a set of proceedings in 2017, “federal workplace drug testing cut-off values were established to avoid the possibility that trace amounts of THC or THC-COOD [the main metabolite that is tested for] would trigger a positive test.” While these cut-off measures were put in place for good reason, different test methods also have different cut-off values. If you know which type of drug test you will be required to take by an employer, you should have a firm understanding of each test’s cut-off points.
The most common type of drug testing done by employers is via urine testing, but saliva tests, blood tests and hair tests also exist. Urine testing is the most commonly implemented test for THC metabolites in the workplace today and is regulated with cut-off points. The main metabolite tested (THC-COOH) must be present at a concentration of 50 ng/mL in order to result in a positive test. THC metabolites are typically detectable in urine for 3-15 days after use, but for people who use THC frequently, this could extend up to or beyond 30 days.
Armed with this knowledge, consumers can make an educated decision about how to buy CBD products, what types to buy, and how to use their favorite CBD or THC products if they know about a pending drug screening. Unfortunately, even with this information, there is a chance that CBD could result in a positive drug test for THC based on poor product labeling or manufacturing procedures.
CBD Product Advertising and Manufacturing Regulations
With the varying legislation from state to state regarding the legality of medical and recreational marijuana, the guidelines for labeling and advertising claims also fall into what may consider limbo. When the Farm Bill went into effect on January 1, 2019, oversight of the hemp industry shifted from the U.S. Department of Justice to the FDA. At that time, the FDA commissioner made a statement that their agency would regulate and oversee hemp-derived products, but the gaps in such oversight have allowed some CBD companies to advertise and label their products in misleading ways.
Under the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), CBD-infused food, drinks and dietary supplements cannot be sold, yet no limitations on hemp-derived CBD products exist. Under the FD&C Act, cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to premarket approval, including cannabis and cannabis-derived ingredients, but there are standard regulations for these cosmetic products.
Under the act, “CBD-infused health and beauty product labels should:
- Not be false or misleading
- Provide required information (includes identity statement, statement of quantity of contents, name and place of business, distributor statement, material facts, warning or caution statements, and ingredients)
- Properly display label information
- Not violate the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970.”
While these product labels are loosely regulated by the above parameters, the first point – that labels cannot be misleading or false – is where most consumers run into issues with THC contamination in the products that they purchase. The FDA has made it clear through several warning letters to CBD companies that a CBD-infused product label cannot make any therapeutic or medical claims. By way of the FDA, these products are not drugs and cannot be labeled as such.
Unfortunately, there is no way for the FDA to regulate and monitor 100% of all CBD products available on the market. In a recent and notable study on CBD product labeling of products sold online in the Netherlands, researchers found that, in 84 products that were advertised as CBD-only products, THC was detectable in 18 of them.
So, what can you do if you prefer to use CBD as a part of your daily routine but you have a job that will enforce immediate or random drug testing?
What You Can Do
First and foremost – do your research! When you are searching for CBD products either online or in stores, figure out the source of the product. Does it come from the cannabis plant or is it hemp-derived? To avoid the possibility of trace amounts of THC, you will want to focus on products that come from hemp plants.
Then you will want to check the formulation – is it full-spectrum or pure CBD? Again, full-spectrum products are more likely to contain THC and show up on a drug test.
If you find a CBD isolate product from hemp plants, see if you can do a little more digging and find out where the hemp is grown. Pro-tip: this is usually on the ‘About Us’ or origin story page on a CBD website. Some states have strict regulations on how farmers can grow hemp and the farming practices that are required. For example, in Kentucky, the Department of Agriculture has created an Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program with an entire set of regulations pursuant to the laws in the state. In states where procedures have been formalized in such manners, it is likely that their labeling and product ingredients are more accurate.
You should always look at or, if not immediately available, request to see a product’s Certificate of Analysis which provides lab tests from a CBD company. Today, most online CBD companies provide this lab sheet online for transparency. You will want to make sure that the batch number, product names and date of the test all line-up and then take a look at the test results. There should be a clear breakdown of cannabinoid testing, including how much THC was found. If this lab results reads “ND,” this means there are non-detectable levels of THC in the product.
When push comes to shove, it is important for consumers to recognize that the CBD industry is not regulated to the fullest extent at this time. As such, even with all of the research and information you may have, there is not a 100% guarantee that CBD use will definitely not trigger a positive THC result during a drug test. CBD isolate use and CBD alone will not result in a positive drug screen, so if you plan to use CBD, be sure you are buying it from a source that you trust.