Can CBD Make You Fail a Drug Test?
In light of a growing body of scientific research establishing CBD’s therapeutic potential, more people than ever before are supplementing with CBD to ameliorate symptoms associated with mood, anxiety and chronic pain disorders. However, as COVID lockdowns begin to ease and Canadians look to get back to work, CBD consumers are wondering if continued supplementation would cause false positives in employer drug screenings.
Put simply, CBD should be safe to continue taking even in the days leading up to a drug test, provided you’re using the right type of CBD product and are not at risk of secondhand exposure to marijuana use.
What exactly does “type of CBD” mean?
CBD products can generally be broken down into three categories: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolates. A CBD isolate backed by a third-party certificate of analysis (COA) is essentially CBD in its purest form, with no secondary cannabis cannabinoids, flavonoids or terpenes that might bring up a flag in testing.
Ideally your best bet is a lab-certified CBD isolate sourced from hemp, not marijuana, to ensure any sample you submit stays well within the pass threshold for THC — which is what employer screenings are ultimately checking for.
Aside from using the right kind of CBD to pass a workplace drug test, there are other considerations worth bearing in mind depending on testing methods and criteria used by different employers. Let’s briefly go over these points and how they might play into your hiring process.
LOQs & Drug Test Considerations by Company
There are many ways different companies can choose to screen for THC, but the single most important factor aspiring employees should look for is their prospective employer’s limit of quantitation (LOQ) value on their test method of choice. LOQs essentially describe the smallest detectable analyte in a given test or test method without imprecision or bias, and will be the determining factor in whether you should stick with your current brand of CBD isolate.
“If you’re a CBD user expecting to be drug tested, you need to be paying attention to the LOQ that the company’s lab is using for their potency testing” warns David Reich, co-founder and CMO of Crescent Canna. “You could see a COA that says THC is ‘not detected.’ But that’s only because the LOQ is too high. If you retested that same sample with a lower LOQ you might see trace levels of THC.”
This means that even if a company is marketing their CBD product as THC-free, you could still be at risk of a positive test if the lab tests to too high an LOQ. “Crescent Canna works with independent ISO 17205-accredited labs that test to an LOQ of 0.001%, so we’re really confident when we use the term THC-free,” Reich explains. “We’ve seen other COAs with LOQs as high as 0.2%. That’s pretty close to the federal THC limit. It leaves plenty of room for THC to go undetected and potentially cause a failed drug test.”
False Positives & Confirmatory Testing
Depending on the thoroughness of a prospective employer’s screening process, the company could move on to what’s called “confirmatory testing” in the event of a possible false positive. Confirmatory testing is able to distinguish THC from other compounds, and may clear up confusion caused by subpar CBD products.
According to a 2017 Penn Medicine study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, up to 7 out of 10 CBD products are either over- or under-labeled, containing less CBD or more THC than stated on the package. This can cause not only a red flag on a drug test, but harm to child or pet patients as well. The risks posed by these products highlight the importance of credible COAs, particularly for job seekers suffering from disorders that can benefit from CBD.
It’s worth noting that as of this writing, the large majority of companies do not follow up employee drug screenings with confirmatory testing, and as such should not be relied upon to do so. In most cases, a quality third-party-certified CBD isolate is safe to use as a supplement — even during the week of the test.
Key Takeaways: How to Avoid Positive Drug Tests When Supplementing with CBD
On the whole, CBD supplementation hasn’t proven to be a problem for millions of workers across North America. However, there are a number of safe rules of thumb newer consumers can use to ensure they never trigger a false positive in a drug screening. These include:
- Use a COA-backed CBD isolate sourced from industrial hemp instead of marijuana
- Do your due diligence in terms of research regarding your CBD product and testing laboratories of choice
- Avoid secondhand exposure to marijuana or THC consumption e.g. smoking, vaping et cetera
- Consume your CBD isolate orally or sublingually to cut out the variable liability of chemical reactions during the heating or vaporization processes associated with infused cooking, baking or vaping