Can You Use CBD and Fail Employer Drug Tests? A Complete Explainer

Drug tests are a fact of life for many people.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index found that positive drug tests hit the highest levels in 20 years in 2021.

However, a report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only 16.1% of workplaces screened for drugs/and or alcohol in 2021.

US BLS report on employer drug testing prevalence 2021.  

You might be tested for drugs if you are in the military, at your new place of work (or if you are involved in an accident).

Some of these tests are pre-employment, and some of them are random. 

Failing them can have severe consequences like getting fired from a job or losing benefits. 

If you are using CBD in any form, would you fail any of these employer drug tests?

The short answer: it depends on the kind of CBD you are using.

The long answer? Read on.

The Chemistry Of CBD

 

 

2D skeletal structure of CBD

 

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of drug tests, we need to look at what CBD is. 

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the main compounds found in the marijuana plant.

Research indicates that CBD makes up almost 40% of the marijuana plant’s extract.

CBD belongs to a group of compounds known as cannabinoids, and another popular member of the group is THC.

CBD has enormous potential, and because of this, it has created a buzz in the medical and wellness worlds.

Many scientists have dedicated their time and skills to try and unravel the secrets of CBD. A lot of people are using it in their daily lives to:

However, despite all this success, there is a major stumbling block to widespread CBD acceptance.

And that is its association with marijuana and THC.

When people first hear about CBD, and they learn that it comes from cannabis, they immediately assume that it makes you high.

Although this isn’t true, it is one of the main reasons why people are worried about CBD and drug tests.

What Happens At An Employer Drug Test?

According to drugs.com, any reputable drug screening program will involve two steps—the initial test (immunoassay) and the confirmatory test.

Since the immunoassay is the first, it is often used as a screening test.

This means that if the immunoassay comes back negative, then the confirmatory test isn’t required. 

The results are reported as negative.

However, if the results do not come back negative, then a confirmatory test is needed.

The most common confirmatory test is the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry test.

In this test, the lab will use a process that combines the properties of both tests to identify the substance within the test sample. 

What Are The Common Samples Used In A Drug Test?

During drug testing, some samples are more frequently used than others. These are: 

  • Urine- In most drug tests, urine is the most common sample. This is because urine can reveal the presence of drugs for some time after the effects have worn off.
  • Saliva- Saliva is the second most common sample in drug testing. Saliva tests are usually efficient at detecting drug use that happened a short while ago. It is not ideal for identifying long-term drug use.
  • Blood- Blood is used as a sample if the testers want to measure the number of drugs in a person's system at a particular moment. It is usually efficient if it is performed within the first few hours after someone has used drugs. The biggest drawback of using blood as a sample is that a lot of drugs are metabolized quickly and can’t be detected after a certain period.
  • Hair- Using hair as a sample for drug tests allows the testers to determine drug use over the long term. It can show the drugs that someone has used over the past 90 days.

Understanding The 5/10 Panel Drug Tests

Now that we’ve looked at how drug testing is carried out let's look at what drugs are tested during these tests.

In most cases, the tests are looking for the presence of five drugs, and this is commonly referred to as the five-panel drug test. These five drugs are:

  • Marijuana(THC)
  • Cocaine
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • PCP (phencyclidine)
  • amphetamines, methamphetamine
  • opiates (such as hydrocodone, codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and heroin)

In other cases, the drug test may be looking for the presence of 10 drugs. These drugs include the five mentioned above and

  • methaqualone (Quaaludes,)
  • methadone or other narcotic prescription drugs
  • benzodiazepines (such as oxazepam and alprazolam)
  • propoxyphene (Darvon)
  • barbiturates (e.g., butalbital, amobarbital, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, or secobarbital)

For more details, check out this video.

What Does Drug Testing Have To Do With CBD

In the list of drugs that are commonly tested, CBD does not make an appearance. 

So you might be wondering why there’s a lot of panic surrounding CBD and drug tests. If they aren't looking for CBD, why should you be worried?

Drug tests look for THC because there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that prolonged use of THC can have negative effects on the brain.

2D structure of THC

2D structure of THC

 Research has shown that rats exposed to THC before or soon after birth or during adolescence have notable difficulties learning and with their memory.

Several other studies have shown that when adolescent rats are exposed to THC, it causes a structural and functional change in the hippocampus. (The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a massive role in memory and learning.)

These structural and functional changes led to cognitive impairment in adult rats.

This 2min video lays out the different ways in which THC affects the human body.

These studies, and an ever-growing body of anecdotal evidence, have made THC persona non-grata in most professional environments.  

The Different Types Of CBD Products Available In The Market

There are three types of CBD products in the market:
  • Full-spectrum CBD: These are CBD products that contain all the extract from the hemp plant, including THC.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: These are CBD products that contain all the extract from the hemp plant except THC.
  • CBD isolates:  These are products that only contain CBD.

So if you are using broad-spectrum CBD products or CBD isolate, there is likely nothing for you to worry about.

This doesn't mean that if you are using full-spectrum CBD, you should panic either — according to US federal laws, full-spectrum CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal to use.

However some states have even stricter laws— check out our blog post on the legal status of CBD in the US in 2022. 

As long as you are buying your CBD from a legit brand AND as long as your state is okay with full spectrum THC, you should be good. 

When Would Using CBD Make You Fail A Drug Test

CBD may make you fail your drug test in the following scenarios:

  • If you take products with high quantities of THC.
  • If you use a THC product that has been wrongly labeled as a CBD product.
  • If you use products that have been contaminated by THC.

    If you want to be 100% safe, don't consume CBD before an important blood test.

    If that's not possible, stay away from full-spectrum CBD products that have under 0.3% THC— drug tests might give false positives, as in the case of our Elderberry Gummies

    However, they are amazing for stress reduction and pain management

    But these stipulations apply only when you are using reputed brands. Otherwise, all bets are off if you buy something shady.

    How Long Do CBD And THC Stay In The Body

    Now that you know the scenarios where CBD can make you fail a drug test, you need to know how long would CBD and THC stay in your system.

    This will enable you to gauge whether or not you are at risk of failing a drug test if you suspect that your CBD was contaminated.

    For CBD, the amount of time it stays in your system is heavily dependent on how you use it.

    • Tinctures- Tinctures are primarily used sublingually, and one notices an effect after 15 to 30 minutes. The effects of tinctures can last up to 6 hours.
    • Capsules- Capsules are taken orally, and it can take up to an hour for you to feel the effects. The effects can last up to 8 hours.
    • Edibles/Beverages- Edibles and beverages are both taken orally, and it normally takes up to an hour to feel the effects. The effects can last up to 6 hours.
    • Topicals- Topicals are applied on the skin, and the effects are usually felt within 20 minutes. The effects can last up to 6 hours.
    • Vaping- When you vape CBD oil, you inhale it into your lungs. You feel the effects almost immediately, but they don't last as long. Most people report that they only last for at most 3 hours.

    The amount of time THC lasts in your system is determined by how frequently you use it.

    If you rarely use THC, your body can eliminate it within a couple of days.

    However, if you are a chronic THC user, it remains in your body for longer with some studies suggesting that it can last up to 1 month.

    How To Pass An Employer Drug Test When Using CBD

    If you want to increase the chances of testing negative on all your drug tests while using CBD, there are several steps that you can take.

    1) Buy your CBD products from a reputable company

    When buying CBD products, you need to be careful of where you get them. 

    Buying from a reputable source will ensure that you get CBD that is not contaminated or mislabeled (Imaginal's CBD products, for instance, are formulated from organic hemp grown in the US).

    2) Check out the lab tests before you buy CBD

    Looking at lab tests will let you know the exact quantity of THC in your CBD product. If the amount of THC is higher than the legal threshold, you should avoid it.

    snippet of lab tests

    Lab tests for all Imaginal products are uploaded on the website

    3) Only using broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate

    By using these two types of CBD, you can get all the benefits of CBD without any of the risks of THC.

    Conclusion

    Because CBD is unregulated by the FDA, you can never be too sure if a particular product causes you to fail a drug screening, because it's hard to trust labels on many products.

    Also, keep in mind that testing is not an exact science, and sometimes tests will catch metabolites, which are the by-products of cannabinoid breakdown.

    This Reddit post gives a great overview of the state of play as far as CBD testing is concerned.

    If you are a frequent CBD user, you might fail an employer drug test for multiple reasons.

    However, as states continue to legalize cannabis and medical marijuana, more companies are going easy on testing, as per this report in WSJ:

    "Despite the increase in positivity last year, fewer companies tested their employees for THC, the substance in marijuana primarily responsible for its effects, than in recent years, said Barry Sample, Quest’s senior science consultant.

    The shifting legal backdrop and changing cultural attitudes have prompted some employers to stop testing for marijuana while companies in some states are barred from factoring the test results into hiring decisions, according to Dr. Sample. And those trends accelerated last year amid the recent shortage of workers, especially in states where recreational marijuana is legal, Dr. Sample added."

    If passing a drug test is critical, we would advise you not to use CBD products, regardless of how well-reputed the brand is.