Good news: CBD is fully legal in nearly every part of the world.
Bad news: some drug tests don’t always identify CBD for what it is, leading to “false positives” that can create misunderstandings with employers.
It’s true — even CBD products that are 100% free from THC don’t always test ‘clean.’ Here’s what you need to know in order to take CBD risk-free.
- Why would CBD show up in the first place?
- ‘Hot’ CBD products
- The many types of drug tests
- How to take CBD risk-free
Why would CBD show up in the first place?
Picture yourself, for a second, in the following scenario. Let’s say you’ve been taking CBD for a month or two, and you’re feeling great. You’re enjoying many of the compound’s most common benefits: you’re sleeping better, feeling a little more energized and perhaps even a little more excited about life. These shifts have inspired you to start working out again. Oh, and they make it easier to not overdo the sweets/smokes/alcohol. So far so good!
Until you get drug tested at work. Despite the fact that your CBD product of choice contains less than .3% THC (so you thought, at least), you get word back that you tested positive for THC, and now you’re in trouble — your only source of income is at stake.
What went wrong? Likely one of two things, so let’s address both potential causes of this surprisingly common problem before explaining how you can correct them.
‘Hot’ CBD products
Many people who test positive after taking CBD products do so for a very simple reason: their CBD contained more THC than advertised. Although .3% is the legal limit for THC — and although all CBD products will claim to fall under this limit — the real world is a little less cut-and-dry.
In the real world, the CBD industry is still a sort of wild west. The FDA has yet to step in and ensure CBD products meet any type of standards for potency and purity; it’s only in the past few years that the industry has started self-regulating.
And this lack of regulation has led to a lack of standardization. A 2017 study from Penn State found that 70% of CBD products were mislabeled, with many of these products testing ‘hot’ (i.e., too high in THC). “The biggest implication is that many of these patients may not be getting the proper dosage,” the study’s lead author explained. “[...] they’re either not getting enough for it to be effective or they’re getting too much.”
Have things improved since then? Not very much. The FDA recently tested 200 CBD products and found their actual THC and CBD contents to be all over the place.
If you or someone you know has tested positive for THC from their CBD/hemp products, this type of mislabeling likely explains why. Choosing a trusted brand with trusted production and testing processes is important!
There’s one other major area where things can go wrong, however...
The many types of drug tests
Did you know that even a perfectly good, perfectly THC free CBD product can trigger less-than-perfect results on a drug test?
Sad, but true. Most employees are subject to what’s called a “point of care” test, and this test uses antibodies, not actual chemical analyses, to identify THC. Unfortunately these antibodies can sometimes confuse CBD for THC, leading to what’s called a false positive.
If this happens to you...don’t panic. Just ask that your sample goes to confirmation testing, which uses mass spectrometry to distinguish between CBD and THC. Your confirmation test will come back negative (i.e., correct), and you’ll be good to go.
Another thing to keep in mind: some employers outlaw CBD entirely. The compound is “completely forbidden for use by any service member in any of the services at this point in time," reported Military.com in 2019. Hopefully the government will come around eventually — especially given CBD’s potential role in relieving PTS symptoms — but this is one more thing to keep in mind.
How to take CBD risk-free
We’ll be honest: it’s unfortunate that so many CBD products are mislabeled. It’s unfortunate that drug tests aren’t 100% accurate, and it’s unfortunate that some employers take such an anti-CBD stance.
But don’t let any of this stuff dissuade you from taking CBD. In nearly all circumstances you can still take the compound and stay free of potential risks.
How? By doing two things:
- Take a premium, lab-tested CBD product containing less than .3% THC (if you need help finding such a product, we’ll happily be of assistance)
- Let your employer know about it! If you’re upfront with your CBD use from the start, you’ll have an easier time requesting confirmation testing if you ever need it (you know, worst case scenario and all)
So, there you have it. CBD shouldn’t show up on drug tests, and it usually doesn’t. But if it ever does...now you know what to do.