According to a Gallup survey in July 2017 (one of the most recent), a record number of Americans have tried weed. An incredible 45% have tried marijuana at least once which makes it especially strange that workplaces still insist on testing for marijuana.
Even more bizarre is the fact that in some states where weed is legal for recreational use, such as in California, employers are legally allowed to fire employees or refuse a job to an applicant, if they test positive for marijuana. Depending on your usage, THC metabolites can remain in your urine for several weeks.
Even one-time users can expect to test positive for a couple of days after consuming weed. THC is the active psychoactive compound in marijuana that is tested. A urine drug screen (UDS) tests for the metabolite THC-COOH. Although a UDS does not prove an exact amount of the metabolite, it does indicate that the concentration is above a certain threshold.
In a standard company drug test, the cutoff limit is 50ng/mL, and a standard user should not test positive about four days after their last use. In some instances, if you test positive for THC-COOH on your first test, a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) test is used. It is a more sensitive and accurate test, and the cutoff point ranges from 5-15 ng/mL.
I Failed a Drug Test, Am I Doomed?
If your employer pays for marijuana screening via urinalysis, it is highly likely that individuals who fail the test will lose their job. Likewise, those who apply for a role and test positive will not be employed by that company. While a variety of states have dispensed with marijuana testing, it is still a sackable offense in a lot of areas.
In the event of a positive test, don’t automatically accept the result. Obviously, if you were high that morning, it is hard to complain! However, there is an increasing number of stories about people who failed drug tests even though they only used low-THC CBD oil. While there are doubtless cases where the unfortunate individual’s purchased oil with too much THC, there is also the possibility of a false positive.
How Does a False Positive Occur?
A 1987 study by Moyer et al., published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, suggested that an EMIT-dau screening test with a limit of 20 ng/mL is nearly 100% accurate. However, the research team used the caveat that such tests were only this reliable if an ‘unadulterated urine specimen” was used. They also outlined that up to 15% of positive results could be ‘false positives.’ Overall, 3% of all tests could reveal a ‘false positive’ so if you have genuinely not used marijuana recently, don’t accept your fate.
The initial UDS tests are rapid affairs and are nowhere near as advanced as employers will have you think. In contrast, the GC-MS test is deemed the ‘gold standard’ of testing because it can detect extremely small amounts. Its high accuracy and sensitivity mean you are far more likely to get a true reading. However, it takes time, money, and expertise to perform the test which is why companies don’t want you to know about it!
I Failed! What Should I Do Next?
There are a host of reasons why a false positive test has occurred. It is possible that other substances, such as pharmaceutical drugs, or even caffeine, could interfere with the results in a urinalysis. Your first order of business is to request a GC-MS test which should always be conducted in the event of a positive result. Although you will get a far more accurate reading, there is still the potential for another false positive if the test column isn’t designed to identify all potential compounds.
After you have recovered from the shock of being told about the test, contact your supervisor or preferably, a Human Resources Officer to talk about the issue. Now is a good time to review your contract, specifically the firm’s anti-drugs policy. It should provide you with information on what to do next if an employee wishes to contest what they claim is a false positive.
If you have been using prescription medication, dietary supplements, OTC drugs, or even CBD products, present them during your meeting with the medical review officer (MRO). Also, disclose all of the food and beverages you have consumed lately, especially so-called ‘herbal’ supplements. Your employer will contact the lab that conducted the test to confirm the results. It is at this stage that your company should request a GC-MS test.
The second test may not be necessary if the MRO concludes that you had a legitimate reason for a positive test, and have the requisite evidence and supporting documents. If this happens, the test is downgraded to a negative. If you also fail the GC-MS test, things get significantly trickier.
As it is considered to be the most accurate test around, trying to prove that it gave a misleading result is almost impossible. Unless you can show clear evidence that something you consumed was responsible for the positive test, your contract will almost certainly be terminated.
Final Thoughts on Failing Your Drug Test
Hopefully, you now understand that the pertinent question to ask in the face of a positive test is: “Can I take a GC-MS test?’ If your employer refuses, don’t be afraid to seek legal action. For CBD users, please remember that your oil could contain up to 0.3% THC. If you use 100mg a day, for example, you are consuming 3mg of THC.
A single dose at this potency could result in a reading of up to 15 ng/mL so if you use the CBD oil for several months; it is entirely plausible that you would test positive for marijuana use in a urinalysis. If this is the case, your next move should be to ask for a GC-MS test although that’s likely to provide a second positive. Your company’s rulebook and state laws, unfortunately, dictate what to do if a GC-MS test also reveals THC metabolites. Good luck!