Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test? Will It Cause You To Fail?

In many states, your employer has a legal right to require you to submit to a drug test. This can be done as a condition of employment either at the point of hire, as a recurring event throughout employment, or both. For the most part, employers are looking for illegal drugs, although some will also test for alcohol use.

We’re not going to get into the ethics involved in requiring someone to submit to one of these tests. It is the law in many states, and so it’s something that many of us, as private sector employees, will have to deal with, regardless of whether or not we feel comfortable doing so.

The process is fairly simple, at least from the perspective to the person submitting to the test. You are required to submit a sample for screening. Usually this is a urine sample, although hair can also be used. Then you sign a form giving consent for the sample to be tested. The test is done at a laboratory and the results are made available to your employer.

The test is looking for evidence of recent use of illicit drugs and / or alcohol. Because these substances typically don’t stay in your system for long, the test instead looks for metabolites of whatever chemical the test is designed to detect. Metabolites are chemical compounds produced by your body when it metabolizes a chemical. These metabolites remain in your system far longer than the chemical itself, until they are eventually re-absorbed by your body.

Assuming for the moment that you aren’t using hard drugs (and that’s not what this is about anyway), we’ll focus here on cannabis use, and specifically CBD.

Many of us use CBD as an alternative to full-spectrum cannabis specifically because it has no psychoactive qualities; it doesn’t get you high, so to speak. Some of us are using it to help us focus, or to remain calm and easy-minded at work. More still use it to help with serious and very legitimate medical issues, be they physical or mental/emotional. So it’s concerning to think that CBD use could potentially cost you a job, even in places where cannabis use is legal for medical or even recreational purposes.  

So can a drug test detect CBD? The short answer is probably not. Now for the long answer. Theoretically, a drug test shouldn’t pick up on any amount of CBD in your system. The test would be looking for another compound all together; the metabolite of THC which is called THC-COOH. If this metabolite is detected during an initial test, a secondary test should be run to determine if the first is accurate.

This is not always done, and many false positives come from the relying on the results of the initial test alone. The THC-COOH metabolite has a low crossover threshold with other cannabinoids and like CBG or CBD, ans so technically neither of these should produce a positive result.

So if you’re not smoking cannabis or otherwise consuming full-spectrum cannabis products that contain THC, why should you worry?  If you’re taking a lot of CBD, you run the risk of a false positive coming back from the first test. This is because large amounts of CBD in your system can trigger the production of metabolites very similar to THC-COOH. A secondary test should put you in the clear, but it isn’t safe to assume your employer (or whomever else may be testing you) will bother to run a secondary test. They certainly aren’t required to, and many will likely opt to save money by relying on initial results alone.

Also, it is important to remember that any CBD product derived from either cannabis or hemp will contain THC in very small, trace amounts. This means that if your taking large amounts of hemp oil, you will likely build up enough THC in your system over time to trigger the production of the THC-COOH metabolite. It would be easy at this point to give you a number to avoid- a threshold CBD dose at which you enter the metabolic “danger zone” for false positives. But it would also be irresponsible, because we’re talking about the metabolic process, which differs greatly from individual to individual.

So the bottom line is this. All CBD products are going to contain trace amounts of THC. But very pure products such as those sourced from industrial hemp will have negligible amounts that should not trigger positive drug test results when taken in regular doses. It is important as always to understand what you are ingesting. Know where your CBD comes from. Was it lab tested? If so, how much THC does it contain. Using the purest CBD product available should put you in the clear if you use it responsibly.