Full-Spectrum CBD Products Can Still Return Positive Cannabis Results, Research Finds
The amount of THC present in legal full-spectrum CBD products is so low that there is no way a consumer could ever test positive on a drug test, right? That’s the assumption many CBD consumers have been acting under ever since the Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of these hemp-derived products in the US.
But a new research letter published in JAMA Psychiatry is calling that assumption into question. After conducting an open-label clinical trial, the researchers found that half of all participants who consumed a full-spectrum high-CBD product ended up testing positive for cannabis use on a urinary drug test after a short period of consistent use.
Fifty percent test positive despite very low THC content in the product
The researchers were working with a sublingual (under-the-tongue) full-spectrum CBD tincture, which is currently in phase two clinical trials, that is meant to be used as an adjunct treatment for anxiety in adults. The recommended dosage for the tincture is three times per day for a duration of four weeks, in addition to other anti-anxiety treatments a patient may be on.
The study included 14 adult-age patients who completed the four-week treatment course, all of which reported zero cannabis use and at least moderate levels of anxiety at the beginning of the study period. The CBD tincture they were given contained around one percent CBD and just 0.02 percent THC; the mean dosage per day was calculated to be around 6.03 milligrams and 0.14 milligrams of CBD and THC, respectively. No participants reported any serious adverse events or psycho-activity.
The study participants submitted urine samples for a THC test, which works by detecting the presence of the THC metabolite 11-nor-9-carboxy- Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH). The assay results were also confirmed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis at a third-party lab.
After four weeks of following the recommended dose guidelines, seven of the fourteen participants tested positive for THC-COOH. Logistic regression analysis did not find any correlation between THC-positive status and other demographic variables, such as age or BMI, although there was a significant association with creatinine levels, which is reflective of kidney function and hydration. The researchers caution that this association still needs to be assessed further in a larger sample size with a more diverse demographic.
Drug screening may also be more sensitive than advertised
The gas chromatography results confirmed the THC-positive status of the participants, but it also indicated that the drug screening assay was often more sensitive that its stated lower limit of detection, around 50 nanograms per milliliter.
This sensitivity matters because the product used in the study only contained 0.02 percent THC by weight; in the US, hemp-derived products can legally contain up to 0.3 percent THC by weight, more than 10 times the amount included in the study product. This raises the possibility that individuals using perfectly legal full-spectrum CBD products might still find themselves testing positive for cannabis if asked to take a routine drug test – something that could be particularly troublesome in areas where cannabis use is not yet legalized or decriminalized.
“It is often assumed individuals using hemp-derived products will test negative for THC,” the scientists wrote in their research letter. “Current results indicate this may not be true, especially if assays are more sensitive than advertised, underscoring the potential for adverse consequences, including loss of employment and legal or treatment ramifications, despite the legality of hemp-derived products.”
CBD products have been linked to positive tests before
While this is the first study to look at how drug test results might be affected by the consistent use of full-spectrum CBD products, it is not the first to suggest that CBD products might cause issues with returning positive tests.
In a previous short-term study, researchers looked at the one-off use of vaping high-CBD, low-THC cannabis and the subsequent drug test results. The cannabis material used in this study contained a much higher level of THC than that used in the new JAMA study, coming in at around 0.39 percent by weight. While this does not quite meet the legal definition for hemp, the material did contain a CBD-to-THC ratio of 27:1, similar to the composition of many CBD or hemp products.
In this study, the participants vaporized less than a gram of cannabis material, resulting in a dose of around 100 milligrams of CBD and 3.7 milligrams of THC. Two of the six study participants then tested positive for a cannabis metabolite during drug screening.
“I have a hard time finding anyone who hasn’t used a CBD product at least once, but most are completely unaware of the possibility of THC exposure or a positive drug test as a result of using these newly legalized products,” said the study’s lead author Ryan Vandrey said in a statement at the time.
“Because the market for CBD products is so new and the popularity of use is growing so quickly, we want the public to be aware that a positive drug test is possible.”
Will CBD Show Up on a Drug Test?
C BD has become quite the buzz word and for good reason: it has shown to reduce pain, nausea, inflammation, spasms, intestinal contractions, artery blockage, tumor cell growth and more all without causing a high.
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- Hemp CBD Oil: A Miracle Drug in the Cannabis Industry
However, since there are many types of cannabis-derived CBD products on the market made from the same plant as THC (everyone’s favorite recreational cannabinoid) and hemp-derived products with extremely low THC levels, many people are left wondering if CBD will show up on a workplace drug test. Though the simple answer is “probably not,” there’s a bit more to it than that. In fact, some people have even failed a drug test for THC after consuming CBD products. Here’s what you need to know about CBD and drug tests.
Most Drug Tests Weren’t Designed to Detect CBD
There are many reasons an employer might require drug screening – safety, legal protection, improved productivity, or even federal mandates – but the ultimate goal is to determine impairment, not a medical regimen. Therefore, most drug screens are not designed to detect CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid derived from either hemp or cannabis plants.
Rather, most employers use either a 5-panel or 10-panel drug screen (some might use 12 panel), both of which test for THC-COOH (what THC turns in to after the body metabolizes it). In addition to THC, the 5-panel drug screen tests for cocaine, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines/methamphetamines while the 10-panel screen also tests for barbiturates, propoxyphene, benzodiazepines, methadone, and propoxyphene. Though the 10-panel test contains more recreational drugs, it also contains more pharmaceutical drugs which have become a growing epidemic over the last few decades.
High Doses of CBD Could Trigger a False-Positive
Because hemp products can legally contain up to .3 percent THC, regularly consuming extremely high doses of CBD products (between 1,000 and 2,000 mg/day, in fact) could trigger a false-positive result. However, it is unlikely that even high doses of daily CBD would surpass the federal limit of 50 nanograms THC metabolite per milliliter of urine.
Please note, a positive test would be the result of minute traces of THC in the body, not CBD.
Though tests are being developed to detect CBD metabolites, most employers don’t really care about it, they just want to know if you get high. That being said, an employer won’t be able to tell you were only using CBD if you fail a drug test for trace amounts of THC. That’s why it’s always important to consider the potential risks before consuming CBD products that contain small amounts of THC. Believe it or not, there are some products on the market without any THC in them, making them great choices for people looking to pass a drug test. If you need to avoid even trace amounts of THC but still want to consume CBD products, you might want to consider trying CBD isolate.
Medical Professionals Want to Know What Cannabinoids are in Your System
Though an employer’s reason for drug testing is to determine your ability to remain safe and productive at work, a medical professional has a whole different reason: to determine what medications to give you to keep you safe. Non-disclosure of cannabis consumption could alter the effectiveness of sedatives and other pain medications.
Because cannabis and anesthesia are both depressants, mixing the two could make for a dangerous mid-surgery interaction. Though surgeons recommend avoiding cannabis consumption prior to surgery to avoid a miscalculation in anesthesia, some medical professionals will conduct a pre-surgery drug screening to ensure all chemicals and medications floating around in the body be identified prior to putting you under.
Because many cannabis consumers don’t always have a clear idea of the specific cannabinoids they are ingesting, some researchers have suggested testing for both CBD and THC (in addition to other narcotics) as part of standardized pre-surgery testing procedures.
Many Employers in Legal States are Looking Past Positive Cannabis Tests
Though it’s still legal to test for cannabis in 420-friendly states, many employees have begun to look past results that test positive for THC. Largely due to the shrinking pool of eligible employees (because, let’s face it, if you can smoke weed, you probably will smoke weed at some point, right?) and largely due an inability to determine cannabis impairment on standardized tests, a growing number of employees are opting out of the cannabis-free workplace mentality.
If you or someone else gets hurt on the job and the company is expected to pay for it, however, a pot-positive test could result in some sort of disciplinary action though only if it contains THC-COOH and only if the workplace drug policy outlines the consequences in advance. Check your local and state laws for details.
CBD has become a popular therapeutic tool throughout the country because of its wide range of benefits. However, because it is often associated with cannabis and THC, many people are reluctant to try it for fear of workplace repercussions.
Ultimately, the consumption of CBD products (with only trace amounts of THC), will usually not show up on standard drug screens as CBD is not an indication of impairment. However, because the trace amount of THC might trigger a positive test result, people who are not willing to face the repercussions of a failed drug test should probably refrain from consuming any CBD products. Though we always recommend full disclosure to medical professionals regarding cannabis and/or other medications, CBD consumption alone is not commonly grounds for workplace discipline. Check your workplace drug policy for more information.
Do you have any tips for passing a drug test that you’d like to share with our readers?
Abby is a writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace designed to connect cannabis writers and creatives with businesses in the industry. She has been a professional cannabis writer since 2014 and regularly contributes to publications such as PotGuide and M&F Talent. She is also the Content Director at Fortuna Hemp, America’s leading feminized hemp seed bank. Follow Abby on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.