n this article, we will explore the relationship between CBD and workplace drug testing, hoping to shed light for those in the legal field about this growing activity. Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result. Due to CBD’s association with the psychoactive compound THC, many wonder if it can show up on a drug test or not. Find out here.
CBD & Drug Testing: Your Questions Answered
Over the last few years, CBD has skyrocketed in popularity. This chemical compound from the cannabis sativa plant is commonly used for pain relief and relaxation despite a growing number of side effects. With CBD being deemed legal in the UK, drug testing has had to adapt and the workplace has had to reconsider its stance on what it deems ‘drug use’.
The market in the UK is worth around £300m a year and that figure is rising, especially as the number of CBD oil users is now in the hundreds of thousands. These figures are expected to triple over the next 5 years according to Savills. Because of the surge in demand for CBD, pharmaceutical companies are entering the industry and attempting to improve the education, knowledge, and reputation of CBD products to maximise their profits.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between CBD and workplace drug testing, hoping to shed light for those in the legal field about this growing activity.
What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
The difference is primarily a chemical one, with their structures being different, however, both CBD and THC (the main active component of cannabis) are members of the cannabinoid family. CBD does not have the same psychoactive effect as that of THC. The same plant can produce both chemicals, because they are both derived from CBGA. The CBGA will then convert into CBD or THC, dependent on the enzyme that acts on it, with THCA synthase turning CBGA into THC, and CBDA synthase converting it into CBD.
Is CBD marijuana or hemp?
Marijuana is the bud of the flower from the Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica plant, which is used recreationally or for medical purposes, most commonly by smoking it. CBD is not hemp either, hemp is from Cannabis Sativa L plants. CBD is a chemical compound that can be extracted from any of these three plant types, however, the hemp plants produce more extractable CBD than their marijuana counterparts.
CBD from hemp plants is legal, whereas CBD from marijuana plants is not, however, the CBD and THC contents are not consistent, which can cause drug testing problems further down the line.
So, does CBD show up on a drug test?
The initial answer we have is ‘No, however, there is a ‘but’ which we will go on to explain.
Typically CBD products contain less than 0.3% of THC, and is taken in small amounts of 100-800mg a day. For a CBD user to fail a drugs test for the small amount of THC, they’d need to consume a lot of CBD, far more than is reasonably used.
If someone consumed enough CBD, could they get a positive result for THC?
Yes, it is possible, but it’s unlikely. Certain impure CBD products may contain trace amounts of the other cannabis compounds, including THC. In hair, the heavy repeated consumption of highly impure CBD above 200mg/day may result in the detection of trace amounts of THC.
A urine drug test detects THC above 50mg/ml, which would require the user to consume more than 2,000mg of CBD product on a regular basis. Whilst this is only 2.5x the upper region of what a regular user might take, it is well beyond what is required to be consumed for the desired effects of CBD. This consumption would also need to be within a short time frame of the urine test for the test to produce a positive THC result. In short, it’s unlikely, but it is possible, and this would be considered a positive result, rather than a false positive.
It is noted that CBD extracts from the marijuana plant that contains high levels of THC are illegal to consume or use.
How to differentiate between CDB consumption and THC abuse?
11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH) is a true metabolite of THC. When THC is abused, THC-COOH will be produced within the body, as the main metabolite (breakdown product) of THC. Therefore, the presence of THC-COOH can only be due to the consumption of THC and not from the consumption of CBD.
Could a false positive result happen?
There is a scenario where false-positive results could happen, but they are also very rare and would require a number of set of circumstances to occur. Additionally, it is important to consider that the result is not a false positive more so a detection of low levels of the drug in the system.
Firstly, there are many different types of drug test analysis, one of which is known as Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, which is one of the only tests which could present a positive for CBD and THC at low levels. This testing requires the adding of a chemical agent to the sample in order to identify which drugs have been consumed, which is a process known as derivatization. The agents, and later the reagents, provide acidic conditions within which the CBD is able to convert into THC, which would then produce a positive result for a CBD user to make them appear as a regular cannabis user.
To avoid this unlikely scenario, labs should use different testing methodologies from GC-MS, or they should avoid the agent trifluoroacetic anhydride (TFAA). Fortunately, more advanced drug testing facilities have moved away from GC-MS and are using RP-HPLC, a faster and more reliable test. The High-Performance Liquid Chromatography linked to a tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) offers more detail into the different cannabinoids and delivers results in as little as 10 minutes. GC-MS is still widely used for testing broadly about which drugs have been consumed, but it can lack certain details, as is proven in this example.
That said at DNA Legal when testing hair we also test THC-COOH which is only produced through the consumption of THC and not CBD.
What to do if the testee claims sole CBD usage?
In cases where a participant has failed a drug test, they may be entitled to claim that the result was incorrect, or to give an explanation for why they think they may have failed. The fact that many initial drug screenings don’t give details into quantities and specific drug data allows claimants to request a follow up confirmatory test. This is a likely scenario for an employee who claims to have only used CBD when they have failed for THC consumption using urine testing.
If hair testing was not conducted initially or it was not tested for THC-COOH then request DNA Legal to perform a hair test that looks for THC-COOH. This will confirm if the person was only positive for CBD or has consumed THC as well.
Quick Q&A CBD Questions
Can the labels on CBD products be trusted?
– Some CBD product manufacturers have been known to make dubious claims about the health and medical benefits. The THC and CBD content stated on the label may differ from the actual contents.
How can I know if my CBD is from a hemp or marijuana plant?
– You can’t know for sure, but marijuana-derived CBD contains higher levels of THC.
Can CBD tamper with the effectiveness of medication?
– Yes, CBD blocks the cytochrome P450 enzyme, forcing many drugs to struggle in their metabolization.
Is CBD a recognised medication?
– In the UK, CBD is a consumer drug product purchased for pain relief and relaxation and is not prescribed by doctors, however, in the US, it is prescribed for sufferers of two different forms of epilepsy.
For more information regarding the legalities and the ins and outs of drug testing in the workplace, please visit DNA legal’s workplace testing services.
For anything related to family drug testing please see our drug and alcohol testing page
Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
Dr. Jessica Cho practiced medicine with a single mission: Help patients attain wellness and create a life full of joy, vitality and balance.
Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.
Table of Contents
- How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work
- Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
- How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC
Despite the widespread popularity of cannabidiol (CBD), a lot of confusion about the plant compound remains, including whether it shows up on a drug test.
CBD and delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both cannabinoids, or active constituents, of the cannabis sativa plant. However, while the intoxicatingly psychoactive properties of THC lead to a “high,” CBD doesn’t produce the same intoxicating effects.
Since the two cannabinoids are sourced from the same plant, it’s fair to wonder whether both THC and CBD would show up on a drug test. Read on to learn more about how drug tests for cannabis work and what research says about CBD use potentially leading to a positive result.
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How Drug Tests for Cannabis Work
Drug tests for cannabis aim to detect THC, not CBD. According to Kelly Johnson-Arbor, M.D., a triple-board certified medical toxicologist and co-medical director of National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C., there are a few types of drug tests that can detect the presence of cannabis in the human body.
One of the most common tests is the immunoassay. “In this test, a sample of a patient’s urine (or other bodily fluid like blood) is analyzed to look for chemicals that resemble the active metabolite, or breakdown product, of THC,” explains Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “The immunoassay does not test for the presence of THC itself, and the test does not provide information about the degree of impairment or amount of THC to which an individual was exposed.”
Immunoassays are inexpensive and accessible, and they provide fast results. However, because false positives and false negatives can occur, they’re considered presumptive screening tests. Dr. Johnson-Arbor says many organizations use confirmation drug testing as a next step.
“Confirmatory testing using mass spectrometry is often used for forensic or workplace drug testing and is considered the ‘gold standard’ for drug testing because it’s the most accurate way to detect the presence of a drug in a person’s urine or blood,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. Mass spectrometry is an advanced method of testing that detects compounds based on their unique chemical structures and, for confirmatory testing, is typically combined with other advanced testing methods. Mass spectrometry, however, is more expensive and time consuming than immunoassays, it requires highly trained staff, and results may not be available for days or even weeks.
Drug tests can detect THC for three days after a single use and more than 30 days after heavy use. “THC is fat soluble and can be stored in body fat for a long time,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “Chronic THC use can lead to accumulation of THC in fatty tissues, and the THC can then slowly release into the bloodstream over time.”
What Level of THC Leads to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
There’s no standard level of THC evaluated across all drug tests. “Different laboratory test manufacturers may have different cutoff levels for positive THC test results,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.
With that said, the cutoff level for THC on an initial immunoassay test is 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine. “This amount represents the concentration of THC metabolites in the urine but doesn’t reflect the actual amount of THC used by the patient being tested,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor.
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Can CBD Use Lead to a Positive Result on a Drug Test?
CBD use can lead to a positive drug test result if the CBD product consumed contains higher levels of THC than the label indicates—a discrepancy that’s not as uncommon as you might think.
“CBD products are largely unregulated and may contain unwanted contaminants, including THC or other illicit drugs,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “In one study from 2017, an analysis of 48 CBD products revealed that less than one-third of the products had accurate labeling about their CBD concentration, and 21% contained THC  Bonn-Miller M, Loflin M, Thomas B, et al. Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. .”
Another analysis in F100 Research of 67 CBD-containing food products in Germany found 25% of the samples contained THC above the lowest observable adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 2.5 milligrams per day.
If you use CBD products regularly, it’s important to keep in mind that they might contain potentially problematic ingredients. CBD itself may not get you high or yield a positive drug test result, but products containing higher amounts of THC than the manufacturer claims might.
Does the Type of CBD Matter?
CBD is derived either from hemp, a specific strain of the cannabis sativa plant, or from THC-containing cannabis. Hemp-derived CBD should contain no more than 0.3% THC, per the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), but product testing reveals it can sometimes exceed this federally legal limit.
A small 2021 study in JAMA Psychiatry evaluated urine samples of 15 participants who used full-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD and found detectable levels of THC in seven study participants four weeks after discontinuing use. The researchers concluded that using hemp-derived products specifically doesn’t always mean you’re in the clear when it comes to drug testing  Lachenmeier D, Habel St, Fischer B, Herbi F, et al. Are Adverse Effects of Cannabidiol (CBD) Products Caused by Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Contamination?. F1000Res. 2019;8:1394. .
“Since the possession, growth and sale of cannabis remains illegal on a federal level, any positive drug test for THC can have serious legal consequences, regardless of whether it was caused by use of contaminated CBD products,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. warns. With that said, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products are less likely than full-spectrum CBD to be contaminated with detectable levels of THC due to the extraction methods used specifically to remove THC from the formulations, as well as other terpenes and cannabinoids in the case of CBD isolate.
How to Make Sure a CBD Product Doesn’t Contain THC
Unfortunately, it isn’t easy for the consumer to be sure how much THC is in a particular CBD product.
“Since the CBD industry is largely unregulated, there is no definitive way to know whether a particular CBD product does or does not contain THC,” says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. “While manufacturers may provide test results for their CBD products that claim that the product does not contain THC, the test results are often representative of only a sample batch of CBD manufactured or sold by the company at a single time. These results do not reflect the composition of every available CBD product sold by the company.”
That said, you should always look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA), which details the compounds found in a CBD product. You can usually find it on the company’s website, or you can request one from the company. If they don’t provide a COA, it should be considered a red flag as it may mean the company isn’t testing their products—or they are and don’t want to reveal the results of those tests to consumers.
Long story short, yes, CBD may yield a positive result on a drug test. There are certain actions you can take to determine whether the product you’re buying contains the lowest amount of THC possible, but there’s no guarantee that the labeling is accurate due to the lack of regulation of CBD products.
Does CBD show up on a drug test?
While CBD is the trendy new kid on the block, it’s often recognised for its associations with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound that causes users to “get high”. Many then question whether or not CBD will show up on drug tests requested by their workplace or athletic organisation. Depending on the nature of the job, your employer may frequently test staff, while drug testing is common for athletes to prevent the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs.
As CBD derives from the hemp plant, which can naturally contain THC, it’s worthwhile doing your research before beginning your CBD journey. Drug tests do not specifically screen for CBD, it’s the THC content that will show up and could theoretically cause someone to fail the test. Most CBD products on the market are THC-free, including our CBD oils and drinks , however, there are multiple reasons why a test result may be positive. Here we explore these.
Will CBD oil show up on a drug test?
If you consume CBD oil, it should not be identifiable on a drug test. As touched upon what does show up, though, is THC. CBD originates from the hemp plant, which contains the whole spectrum of cannabinoids, including THC. Due to this, it is possible for CBD oil to result in a positive test if the product you consume contains THC too. While the CBD compound is not screened per se, THC is traceable.
Generally speaking, it should not show up if you have purchased CBD products from a regulated seller as these will contain very low amounts of THC, or none at all. It’s therefore highly unlikely that your workplace or athletic drug test will be positive if you have carefully considered where you buy your CBD oil from.
How does CBD show up on a drug test?
While manufacturers of CBD may claim that their products have no THC content, this isn’t always the truth, which is why it can show up on a drug test. You may find that your CBD oil is flagged up if it hasn’t been third-party tested or is wrongly labelled, displaying an incorrect THC percentage. False positives are another explanation. This tends to occur if the person is also taking other drugs, such as dronabinol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen, naproxen and sulindac, or pantoprazole and efavirenz.
Negligence might play a role too. Some suppliers will cut corners by using cheaper extraction methods that don’t remove all of the THC. As there isn’t any regulatory standard for extractions processes, the risk of THC being present in your CBD products increases as a result.
A urine drug test (or immunoassay test) will identify if someone has any THC in their system. This method uses antibodies designed to latch onto specific drugs and its metabolites. In this situation, the test would be looking for the presence of THC. If the antibodies identify it, you’ll receive a positive result.
It’s worth noting that, while your CBD oil shouldn’t contain THC, if it does, it may be detectable for three days after a single use, or more than 30 days for frequent use. This is because THC is a fat soluble that slowly releases when the person burns or recycles this fat.
What are the types of CBD?
There are three different types of CBD, and each contains varied levels of THC. It’s important to understand the differences between the types as some have higher percentages of THC than others.
- Full-spectrum CBD
This contains all of the naturally occurring compounds in the plant, including CBD, terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids such as THC. As full-spectrum CBD tends to be extracted from cannabis plants other than the hemp plant, it can have varying amounts of THC. That said, full-spectrum CBD that’s derived from hemp is legally required to contain less than 1mg of THC. It is possible for this type to show up on a drug test!
- Broad-spectrum CBD
These contain additional compounds too, including terpenes and cannabinoids such as THC. However, most of the time, nearly all of the THC content is removed, meaning broad-spectrum CBD products may only have trace amounts — this might still be identifiable in a drug test, though.
This contains nothing but pure CBD. It comes from the hemp plant and naturally has very little THC, and therefore will not show up on your workplace or athletic drug test. You can take larger doses of isolate CBD without worrying about the presence of THC.
Which substances are banned or illegal in the UK?
CBD is completely legal and safe to use in the UK, provided products meet the specific government standards to be bought and sold here. Legal CBD products must contain no more than 0.2% THC , otherwise they will be classed as a prohibited substance.
As we mentioned earlier, athletes must regularly undertake urine drug tests to ensure they are not using any performance enhancing drugs. These test for substances within certain banned categories, including androgens (growth hormones), stimulants, diuretics, narcotics and cannabinoids like THC. If you’re a sportsperson who uses CBD oil in your daily routine, it is possible for it to show up in a drug test if you buy an unregulated or contaminated product.
These substances are also prohibited in the workplace and if they are present in a drug test, it’s likely you’ll face serious consequences. You might have to attend a meeting with your boss or even face job loss. This includes any alcohol you consume or drugs you take at work — prescription medications are excluded from this.
How do I avoid testing positive when consuming CBD?
By now you should hopefully better understand how it’s possible for CBD to show up on a drug test. If CBD oil or any other CBD-derived product is becoming a regular part of your routine, you can avoid the possibility of testing positive by always checking how reputable and trustworthy the brand in question is.
Many CBD companies, including us at TRIP, ensure the purity of products through third-party lab testing. Remember to check the label before consuming CBD. Identify which plant it originates from and what kind of CBD it contains.
Thorough research will set you on the right path and help you to achieve balance in your life without risking your job or professional hobby.