Failed a Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil? [Here’s Why…]


So you started taking CBD oil in place of regular marijuana because you heard it didn’t have any THC in it, and it wouldn’t get you high — right? But guess what, lo and behold your work throws an out-of-the-blue drug screening at you and you fail. Miserably, in fact.

What gives?

Most high-quality CBD isolates contain zero THC; this is true. Therefore, it would be all but impossible to fail a drug test, right? Some full-spectrum tinctures and lesser-quality isolates actually do contain trace amounts of the psychoactive substance. This depends upon what source of hemp/cannabis is the raw material. Additionally, the methods used to extract the active compounds matter too.

Companies can say their products contain 0% THC. Still, test results of some lesser-quality CBD oils contain trace amounts of the psychoactive compound.

In this article, we put on our Sherlock Holmes caps and do our very best to try and get to the bottom of your failed drug test after taking CBD oil. It’s highly, highly unlikely that CBD will make you fail a drug test. Still, it does happen from time to time. Fortunately, we’re here to try and explain why — and tell you how to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

First, though, let’s take a look at some traditional drug screening and employer/employee relationships here in the US. Next, let’s examine what you can do (if anything.) You need to try and explain a failed drug test was due to CBD oil, rather than actual marijuana.

Do Drug Tests Even Look for CBD?

Employers perform drug tests to check for illicit substances including heroin, cocaine, and, of course, marijuana. They can craft a drug testing policy that meets the organization’s needs as long as it follows applicable law. Employers can even ask job candidates to take a drug test and make a hiring decision based on the results.

In the majority of cases, employers abide by the SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines, as this keeps them protected in a legal sense. A typical drug screen for marijuana uses an immunoassay with antibodies to detect THC (specifically THC-COOH.) This is marijuana’s main metabolite.

cbd oil drug test

In other words, drug tests don’t actually look for the presence of CBD, but rather THC – the psychoactive component.

The problem lies in the fact that some CBD oils do in fact contain trace amounts of THC. At less than 0.03% however, these amounts are all but negligible. This is the cutoff limit for CBD oil sold in all 50 states.

How can you know whether the CBD oil you consume has enough THC in it to fail a drug test? There’s no real clear answer to this; still, let’s take a look at some of the “cutoff figures” to help get a better idea.

THC Cutoff Levels & How They Relate to Failing a Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil

Like we said, most CBD oils contain minuscule amounts of THC. But how are you supposed to be able to take a standard 30mL bottle and determine the cutoff if THC is present at a level of 0.03%?

As per SAMHSA, the “cutoff” limit for the presence of THC is 50 ng/mL. Unfortunately, there are so many variables and contributing factors. These include individual metabolism, body mass index, and more. They make it difficult to gauge how much cannabis (including consumption of CBD oil) it takes to surpass this cutoff.

Let’s take a look at an example. Say an individual takes a massive (maybe 1000 mg) dose of CBD oil that contains 0.3% THC. They may theoretically ingest up to 6 mg of THC. This amount can create a positive test result on a marijuana urine test approximately 23% of the time. For reference, a standard “good-sized” joint with high-quality marijuana contains about 50 mg of THC. This amount will cause most individuals to fail a drug test.

Why CBD Shouldn’t Make You Fail Your Test

Let’s say you consume a serving of CBD oil that’s 50 times higher than a standard dose. The THC consumed is still less than the “generally accepted amount” that can result in a failed marijuana screening.

According to an article by Leafly, in fact, even after taking a massive 1000 or 2000 mg dose of CBD, an individual would still only have an 11-23% chance of failing a urine assay that tests for THC metabolites.

At much more “standard” doses (i.e. 3-5 servings per day of “commercial CBD hemp oil”), the rate of drug test failure is less than 0.2%. In other words, according to these numbers you have about a 1-in-500 chance of failing a drug test after taking normal daily servings of low-THC CBD oil.

Even still, users must be wary of the fact that there are different “types” of CBD oil out there.  Not all of them are created equally. As such, here’s a brief rundown on the various types you’ll come across. Additionally, which ones you’ll want to use (and avoid) if you’re trying to pass a marijuana test.

Know the Different Types of CBD Oil — DON’T Fail That Test!

Simply put, if you want to take CBD oil but are worried about failing a drug test for marijuana, you’ll want to use an oil that has 0% THC. Oils with a zero THC content are known as CBD isolate oils. They contain nothing other than the CBD, by itself. Here’s a brief list of a few more different types of cannabis oils:

Cannabis/THC Oil

This is thick and sticky oil is made from cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. These cannabinoids are from the cannabis plant.

Cannabis oil is extracted using solvents, and is the most potent of the three main cannabis products.

You can make your own cannabis oil, but in reality, the chances of being able to create a high-quality version are slim. Also, it is known for its high THC content, so it is obviously not for consumption if you hope to pass a workplace drug test.

Full Extract Oil

This is one of the numerous varieties of cannabis oil and is often made from cannabis flowers, although leaves are sometimes used during the extraction process.

Again, specialists extract this oil via the use of solvents to separate the cannabis resin from plant material; the result is a very highly concentrated product.

Also known as FECO, this type of oil is commonly manufactured at home and some people like to use grain alcohol during extraction. It is a popular choice for cancer patients who use medical cannabis and also treats conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Unlike other homemade extraction methods which involve inhalation, FECO is consumed orally. The potency of the oil means the THC content is far too high to pass any drug test.

Hemp Oils

Industrial hemp oil comes from hemp seeds which contain hardly any THC; less than 0.03% in fact, as we discussed earlier. You may find traces of THC in specific brands. This is due to the extraction process they use which combines the outside leaves which protect the seeds. Nevertheless, it is one of the best options in terms of passing an employee drug test.

This form of oil is even used as an antidepressant. This is because it provides a similar uplifting feeling without the negative side effects associated with prescription medication. It is also possible to cold press peel (and unpeel) the seeds of the hemp plant to create a delicious tasting oil.

Even knowing and understanding the various types of CBD oils out there however, a naive customer can still be duped by a “subpar” product. In other words, a product that says it has “0% THC” on it, when in reality it contains trace amounts. Here are the top 5 reasons why people fail a drug test after taking CBD oil:

Reason #1 for Failed Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil: “Low-Quality Tinctures”

The most likely reason why someone fails a drug test after taking CBD oil is they bought a low-quality product. If this product contains a little bit of THC in it, it creates a negative response; even if advertised as THC-free.

Well, let’s back up just a little bit. First of all, almost all marijuana drug screenings test for the presence of THC in your system. This is because this is the compound that actually makes you high. CBD does not make you high at all (and thus it doesn’t show up on tests); even though it comes from the same plant species as marijuana.

What sometimes happens, though, is trace amounts of THC that were in the same raw material that the CBD was extracted from, end up in your oil in a high enough volume that it becomes detectable on a test.

This happens a little bit more frequently when you buy CBD oil from actual cannabis dispensaries in states where marijuana is legalized (either recreationally or medically), rather than from an online seller.

Why Is This the Case?

The reason this is the case is that most dispensaries in legalized states that sell CBD oil extract their products from actual marijuana plants, rather than hemp plants.

While hemp and marijuana are of the same species of plant, the major difference is that marijuana contains the female flowering buds. These contain THC. Hemp only contains the male, non-THC parts. So even if you purchased a CBD oil that was extracted from a “low THC” marijuana strain, there’s a possibility that enough THC was present for it to show up on the test.

This is highly unlikely (and very unlucky). Still, it’s always a possibility if you’re buying CBD products that were extracted from cannabis strains.

CBD oil that was extracted from industrial hemp, on the other hand, is by law required to have no more than 0.03% THC by volume. This is far less than is typically detectable on drug screenings.

The majority of CBD oils that are sold online and shipped to your doorstep are sourced from industrial hemp (or at least they claim they are). This is because industrial hemp is legal in all 50 states, whereas marijuana is only legal in a select few.

Even still, some low-quality online CBD sellers are extracting their oils from regular THC-containing marijuana, even though they label it as “THC-free” hemp. And since neither THC or CBD is regulated by the FDA, there is minimal regulation on the matter and they can get away with pretty much whatever they want.

[To learn more about the various types of cannabis plants, check out this article on the key differences between marijuana and hemp].

Reason #2 for Failed Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil: “THC Contamination”

Another potential reason that you might’ve failed a drug test after using CBD oil is because other, THC-containing products may have gotten mixed in with the original raw tincture supply.

Again, this is much more likely to occur at an actual marijuana dispensary than an online seller. This is because most dispensaries sell high-THC products in addition to their non-psychoactive CBD products.

For example, if a bottler or even a store clerk was handling a “THC-free” product (like your CBD oil) right after handling regular marijuana flower (or anything else that has THC in it), they could potentially contaminate the CBD simply from the residue on their hands. It sounds absolutely absurd, and it’s probably a 1-in-a-million chance, but there’s a possibility.

Again, while we’re not necessarily recommending you buy CBD oil online as opposed to in-store dispensaries, there’s probably less of a likelihood that you’ll encounter “THC contamination” from an online seller, given the fact that (most of them) use an industrial hemp supply and have no contact with actual marijuana.

Reason #3 for Failed Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil: “Second Hand THC Exposure”

Another reason you might’ve failed a drug test after taking CBD oil is you were simply exposed to THC unknowingly. Believe it or not, this is A LOT more common than you might think. There are several different ways that you can be “back-handedly” exposed without ever realizing it.

You can hypothetically inhale enough second-hand smoke to fail a drug test if the people around are smoking heavily in your vicinity. However, presence in an extremely poorly ventilated room for hours on end is how this could be a viable possibility. Moreover, it would’ve had to have happened the day (or maybe two) before your test. Otherwise, there’s no way second-hand smoke could be potent enough to linger in your system.

What’s more probable, in all reality, is that you fail a marijuana hair test from touching your head with THC on your fingers. This sounds really strange, but it actually happens from time to time as hair tests are usually much more thorough than urine tests.

You could do something as seemingly innocuous as pick up a joint or pass your friend a bowl (or have your girlfriend run her fingers through your hair), and get enough THC “stuck” to the hair follicles for it to show up on a screening.

Again, very very unlikely, but it’s definitely a possibility.

Reason #4 for Failed Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil: “Digestive Stomach Acids”

Lastly – and probably least likely of all to happen – is that you failed a drug test after taking CBD oil because the CBD molecularly broke down into THC after interacting with the acids in your stomach and digestive system.

Yep, it’s true — CBD has been shown several different times in laboratory settings to chemically decompose (there’s probably a more accurate scientific word for that) into trace amounts of THC when it is exposed to strong acids.

In fact, there was actually a big scandal not too long ago about a pharmaceutical company that published this long-winded paper warning people that CBD can “make you high” because it converts into THC if it sits in your stomach for a period of time.

However, it was soon realized that the “publishers” of the paper were actually employees of the pharmaceutical company. They coincidentally were finalizing data for the release of their new transdermal CBD patch.

It appears they deliberately skewed data to make the transdermal patch look like a safer option than oral CBD oil.

It’s true – CBD can break down into THC in the presence of acids. But this is not nearly enough to get you high. Several high-profile scientists pointed this out almost immediately after the release of the “questionable” report. It could, however, possibly occur in a high enough quantity to have you fail a urine test. But this is incredibly rare and unlikely, if not impossible.

The Bottom Line: You (Probably) Won’t Fail a Drug Test After Taking CBD

The bottom line of this article is that people who use CBD oil can (and have) failed marijuana drug tests before; even oils that have been tested to contain less than 0.3% THC. This has caused them to miss out on potential job opportunities (or worse, lose their current job).

cbd drug test

Even still, we have been astounded by the number of CBD companies that claim that you cannot – and will not – fail a drug test after using their products.

This is a blatant lie. The simple fact of the matter is that if you are taking ANY product that’s been extracted from cannabis (even from low-THC industrial hemp), the possibility is there that you may fail a drug test. We’ve even heard stories of people failing drug tests after using CBD isolate, which is supposed to be 100% THC-free.

Is CBD Isolate a Fool-Proof Way of Passing a Drug Test?

The numbers we talked about above were assuming that an individual is taking a full-spectrum CBD oil with trace amounts of THC in it. If you really want to be on the safe side, opt for a CBD isolate oil. It is 100% THC-free reportedly.

However, as we’ve mentioned earlier, we have even heard of people failing drug tests after taking CBD isolate (though this is likely due to mislabeled products on the manufacturer’s behalf, more so than anything else).

If your concern is failing a drug test because of CBD oil, your best bet is not to use it. Wait at least until the drug test is over.

Of course, the really difficult scenario is for those people who are subject to frequent/periodic drug testing at various times throughout the year. This can include individuals on parole, individuals in work release programs, in pain management clinics, or even government employees who are subject to zero-tolerance drug policies and randomized drug testing.

The sad reality is that, in the past, there have been hard-working, 100% drug-free people who have lost their jobs after taking CBD oil with trace amounts of THC in it. For people in situations like this – who really need to use CBD but are subject to periodic drug testing – we really don’t have any kind of a perfect answer for you. While it is uncommon to test positive for marijuana after using CBD products, the possibility is always there.

What If You Failed the Test?

If you have failed a drug test after using CBD oil, our advice would be to speak with the Medical Review Officer (MRO) and explain your situation as clearly (and respectfully) as possible. People still highly stigmatized cannabis in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, most people are not yet aware of the differences between CBD and actual marijuana.

Also, another thing worth pointing out is that the presence of CBD may result in a “cross-reaction” with the immunoassay on the urine drug test. Basically what this means is that you could potentially fail a drug test because the assay “accidentally” reads the CBD compound as THC. This is rare, but it is possible.

If this is indeed the case, though, make sure the presence of THC in your failed drug test has been verified by a follow-up GC/MS (gas chromatography/mass spectrometry) analysis, and that you ask to see the report. It’s possible that the presence of CBD has resulted in an initial “false positive” reading. Still, a GC/MS is the only way to verify whether or not this is the case.

Final Thoughts on Why You Failed a Drug Test After Taking CBD Oil

All in all, if you purchase a quality, reputable CBD oil extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply with less than 0.3% THC content, the chances are low that you will fail a drug test; just don’t be fooled or manipulated by false acclamations that it is impossible. It is indeed possible, and it can and has happened in the past.

Rest assured however that such occurrences are a rarity; under all extensive circumstances, it is very unlikely that taking a normal daily serving (or servings) of high-quality CBD oil will result in you testing positive on a marijuana drug test.

To be as cautious as possible, however, make sure you are only purchasing your CBD from reputable manufacturers. Perhaps even try a CBD isolate if you are really want to be on the safe side.

And lastly, remember not to see any of the information in this article as fact. Any individual who consumes marijuana, cannabis, CBD oil, or any other CBD product is doing so under their own discretion. Therefore, they are responsible for any potential negative consequences.

If you’re worried about an upcoming drug test, be extra wary of exposure to second-hand THC smoke (or contact with your hair), and make sure your preferred CBD oil is coming from a reliable, trustworthy manufacturer with a quality hemp supply.

Article Sources:
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