Will CBD show up on a drug test?
This sounds like a simple question, but the best answer is “it depends.” There are a number of factors to consider – let’s start by talking about the different types of CBD available today.
Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum vs Isolate
CBD tinctures are typically made with full spectrum extract, broad spectrum extract or CBD isolate.
Full spectrum means it contains CBD plus a variety of other naturally occurring cannabinoids, along with trace amounts of THC. These other cannabinoids contribute to what is known as the entourage effect where the variety of cannabinoids, together with terpenes and other plant compounds are thought to produce a more therapeutic effect than just pure CBD.
Broad spectrum extracts are full spectrum extracts with the THC removed to a level where it is non-detectable by current technology. Thus, broad spectrum extracts contain CBD along with other cannabinoids, and extremely small amounts (undetectable by any available lab tests) of THC.
CBD Isolate is a highly refined version of CBD that contains nothing but pure CBD and looks like a white powder.
While there are companies that specialize in THC-free products based on CBD isolates, there are questions about efficacy of isolate products. In our experience, full spectrum extracts provide a more beneficial experience and more potent therapeutic effect, but CBD isolate does provide the advantage of being truly THC-free. To learn more about the differences between full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate, please read this Blog post.
CBD and drug testing
The drug tests used today screen specifically for THC and THC metabolites and CBD by itself does not produce a positive result. If you are taking ingestible tinctures made with CBD isolate, the CBD will not show up on a drug test.
If you are taking a full spectrum or broad spectrum product, then it is possible you will test positive for THC. Even when using full spectrum CBD, testing positive for THC really depends on a number of factors including the amount of THC in the CBD oil, how much of the product you use over time, as well as how your body processes cannabinoids. One recent study found 2 out of 6 people using a legal full spectrum CBD tincture tested positive for THC.
Why is there THC in my CBD oil?
Per the 2018 Farm Bill which legalized hemp and hemp products in the United States, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight. Anything less than that is considered hemp and is legal; anything more than that is federally illegal per the farm bill. So full spectrum CBD products can contain trace amounts of THC, as THC occurs naturally in hemp.
CBN is another cannabinoid that is gaining popularity as a sleep aid. There are a number of products on the market that contain CBN as it is thought to have a relaxing, sedative effect. However, CBN is created as a byproduct of THC. Over time, through simple chemical reactions of heat and oxidation, THC degrades into CBN. Because CBN is chemically similar to THC, recent studies have shown that CBN can potentially trigger a positive drug test, even when there is no THC present.
Topical CBD and drug testing
If you are using a regular CBD topical like a salve or lotion, even if it is a full spectrum product with trace amounts of THC, the chances of a positive drug test are practically zero. Using a product on the skin is very different from ingesting it orally, as the cannabinoids do not normally make it to the blood stream when applied topically. A study published in 2017 showed that topical application of a THC rich topical on 3 volunteers did not result in a positive urine test. The only exception to this would be transdermal patches (like nicotine patches) which are specifically designed to penetrate the skin barrier and deliver the drug to the blood stream.
My employer requires drug testing – what should I do?
You can assume that ingesting a tincture that contains full or broad spectrum CBD extract will put you at risk of testing positive for THC. For someone that is required to pass drug tests as a condition of employment, an isolate based CBD tincture would be the safest choice. There are also topicals available which are made with either broad spectrum CBD (THC free) or CBD isolate. If you are not required to undergo randomized or pre-employment drug screens, full and broad spectrum CBD products are a better choice as they are less processed and more effective.
Federal cannabis legalization – a vision of the future.
With the prospect of cannabis legalization in the United States on the federal level comes the possibility that one day perhaps THC will be regulated in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco instead of being treated like a schedule 1 drug like heroin or cocaine. When that day comes, cannabis prohibition will be well and truly be behind us. When cannabis is fully legalized nationwide, employers will no longer need to include THC in drug screens, freeing everyone to explore the full benefits of the hemp plant.