Does Delta-9 THC Show Up on a Drug Test?
Mon, Aug 01, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Picture the following scenario for a second: You just heard the good news about delta-9 THC’s legal status. So you do what anyone would do in your situation: you get your hands on a premium CBD+THC product!
You start taking the product and things are going great. Until, that is, you’re in the office one day and get notified that you’re up for a random drug test.
Before you can even think your body grows heavy with anxiety. Then your mind starts racing. What about that product I just bought? Will it make me test positive? What if I do test positive? I can’t lose this job!
First things first: don’t panic. Just try to remember what you’re about to read in this article…
- Why is drug testing even an issue?
- Drug testing 101
- Drug testing 202
- The many types of drug tests
- How much delta-9 THC does it take to test positive?
- How long will delta-9 stay in your system?
- Common drug testing FAQs
Short version: does delta-9 THC show up on a drug test?
No time to read this whole article? No problem. The short answer to the drug testing question is yes — THC may show up on a drug test. The more THC you take, the more likely it is that you’ll test positive. There you have it! If you still need more details, you’ll find plenty of them below.
Why is drug testing even an issue?
Before we get into delta-9 and drug testing, it’s important to understand why this is a potential issue in the first place.
Here’s why: delta-9 THC’s legality has started to progress ahead of drug testing protocols. Hemp-derived THC may be legal, but to any given drug test this legal compound looks identical to illegal cannabis-derived THC — because it is. Making things even more complex, drug testing protocols continue to test for THC even in states where any form of THC is legal!
Testing positive for THC can negatively affect your job, career, sports team, and overall legal standing. Keep reading to learn how to avoid such a situation.
Drug testing 101
A drug test is a simple process that entails checking your body for signs of prior or ongoing drug use. Drug testing requires participants to provide a biosample, the most common of which are urine or hair.
Drug test kits contain reactants that are able to detect illegal substances (or, in the case of delta-9 THC, substances that have recently become legal). If the substance(s) in question are detected, the test result is considered positive; if the substance isn’t detected, the test result is negative.
Not all substances are metabolized by your body the same way, which means that some substances are more easily detected by drug tests than others. The faster something gets processed by the liver and metabolized into downstream compounds, the harder it’ll be for drug tests to detect. Fat-soluble compounds usually stick around in your body for longer than water-soluble compounds do. Unfortunately, both THC and CBD are fat-soluble compounds. They can remain sequestered in your body’s fat stores for weeks after ingestion.
The process of actually getting drug tested tends to be fairly predictable. First you’ll be notified that you’ve been selected. You’ll also be informed of what you’re being tested for, as well as how the test results will be used. Feel free to ask questions if they come up during this time!
Drug testing 202
To get technical about it, drug tests don’t even test for delta-9 THC. Nor do they test for delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, CBN, or CBD.
What drug tests actually pick up on is something called THC-COOH. This molecule is a direct metabolite of delta-9 THC. If you’ve taken delta-9, there’s a 95% chance it’ll get processed by your liver, convert to THC-COOH, and be detected on a point of care marijuana test.  As we said above, this metabolite can stay in your system for weeks.
The many types of drug tests
Point-of-care urine tests are most common when it comes to testing for THC. You may encounter other types of drug tests, however:
- Sweat screenings
- Hair follicle tests
- Breath tests
- Saliva tests
- Blood tests
Despite its popularity, urinalysis does have some downsides. Its detection window (the window within which it’s able to pick up any given substance) is much shorter than other types of testing. Hair tests and blood tests, on the other hand, have a much longer detection window.
These tests also use different testing methodologies, including immunosorbent assays and chromatography. Hair and blood tests are commonly used for confirmation testing. If the accuracy of an initial drug test is called into question, these confirmation tests are used to either confirm or deny the first test’s results.
How much delta-9 THC does it take to test positive?
A positive urinalysis result typically requires at least 50 ng/mL of THC (nanograms per milliliter). If you’ve ingested an appreciable amount of THC anytime in the last 3-4 days you may reach this 50ng/mL concentration.
Keep in mind that urine tests can’t ‘see’ how long it’s been since you’ve taken THC, nor can they see how much you’ve been taking. They can only see how much THC-COOH is in your urine at the time of the test.
How long will delta-9 stay in my system?
THC’s high is relatively transient, typically wearing off within a few hours.
THC’s conversion to THC-COOH and other metabolites, however, takes considerably longer. THC-COOH can reach peak concentration anywhere from 2-30 days after you last took THC. (Most of the time your body is able to excrete 80+% of its THC-COOH within roughly 5 days.) Still…why does this metabolite stick around for so long? Because its solubility means its easy stored in fat cells, and fat cells don’t get recycled especially quickly.
Here are some basic guidelines that should give you a better idea of what to expect: 
- One-time THC use: 2-4 days with traceable metabolites
- Moderate THC use: <5 days with traceable metabolites
- Heavy/daily THC use: <10 days with traceable metabolites
- Very heavy THC use: <30 days with traceable metabolites
Just keep in mind that the above guidelines are exactly that — guidelines. A wide array of factors can alter delta-9 THC’s normal transit time, including:
- Your age: As you get older your body may take slightly longer to process THC.
- Your delivery method: THC edibles may stay in your system (and stay detectable) for longer than other products.
- Your usage frequency: Chronic THC users may have so much THC-COOH in their fat stores that it takes up to a month for the metabolite to completely leave their system.
Summing things up
There you have it — delta-9 THC is a legal compound that can nonetheless make drug testing a little bit of a hassle. Consider taking a proactive approach with your employer if you’re taking delta-9. Inform them of delta-9’s legal status before you’re notified of your next drug test. And on the chance you do test positive, simply insist on confirmation testing.
Here’s to hoping that drug testing protocols catch up to cannabis’s newfound popularity soon. If other changes are any indication, it’s probably only a matter of time.
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