Will CBD Oil Result in a Positive Drug Test?

CBD (cannabidiol) oil is a popular product for everything from pain control and anxiety to promoting sleep. However, with the rise of CBD comes a concern about failing a drug test due to detection of CBD oil. News stories are emerging across the country involving famous people who have gotten positive drug screening results for the presence of THC. This is the psychoactive component of marijuana, and it's happening even though CBD oil is said to be THC-free. 

What are the odds that CBD oil users will test positive when subjected to illicit drug screenings? And what can be done to prevent it?

How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Does CBD Oil Contain THC?

The active chemical in marijuana that gets detected in a positive drug test screening is THC. However, most people are under the impression that CBD oil is THC-free.

As it turns out, depending on the source of the cannabis that is used to produce the CBD oil, some products do contain traces of THC. This includes low-quality isolates and many full-spectrum tinctures.

Breakdown of Cannabis

Cannabis is the umbrella term describing hemp and marijuana plants—two different varieties of the cannabis genus. Both marijuana and hemp can be described as cannabis plants, but they are two separate plants.

CBD is one of many active chemical compounds in the cannabis plant. One reason it’s becoming more popular is because it's said to lack the component of the plant that causes a person to get high. This component is called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp is nearly void of THC. In fact, a cannabis strain must contain less than .3 percent THC to be classified as hemp. This is why hemp can be legally sold as various products.

Most CBD products are made from hemp, not marijuana.

There are many distinctions between marijuana and hemp that relate to CBD oil. Marijuana contains both THC (the psychoactive component) and CBD. Hemp contains CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Hemp also contains many cannabinoids, and CBD is only one example.

There are several techniques for extracting CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The extraction method determines whether the active CBD compound gets processed as a “full spectrum oil” or an “isolate.” A full spectrum oil contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD. These compounds may include CBN (cannabinol) and cannabis terpenes (the part of the plant that gives the plant its aroma).  A CBD isolate is a pure compound with no other active compounds or cannabinoids.

Study of CBD Oil

While some CBD oils claim to be isolates, they may be full spectrum oils and actually contain more cannabinoids (such as THC) than they claim.

In a study conducted at the Lautenberg Center, researchers discovered that CBD was more effective for treating inflammation and pain when used with other cannabis plant compounds. These compounds were derived from a full spectrum product over a CBD isolate product alone. This is one reason that full spectrum products (those containing THC) are popular.  

However, the distinction between full spectrum oils and isolates make all the difference if you are being tested for drug use.

Reasons for Failing a CBD Drug Test

There are several common reasons a person fails a CBD drug test:

1. Using Product With THC

The most common reason for a failed CBD drug test is that a person is using a CBD oil product that contains THC. Sometimes, this may be because a person purchases a low-quality product that contains a small amount of THC. Although most manufacturers claim their products do not contain THC, this is not always the case.

2. Cross Contamination of THC

Very small amounts of THC present in the material that CBD is extracted from can get into the CBD oil in high enough amounts to result in a positive drug test. This scenario may be more likely to occur when CBD oil is purchased from cannabis dispensaries in places where cannabis is legal.

3. Mislabeling of Products

CBD oil extracted from hemp is not supposed to have any more than .3 percent of THC. However, it’s not uncommon for sellers to mislabel their products as THC-free hemp when, in reality, it’s a low-quality oil extracted from marijuana. And marijuana does contain THC. 

In fact, one study discovered that almost 70% of the CBD products sold online were mislabeled. This caused "potential serious harm to its consumers.” The reason for this widespread mislabeling is that CBD products are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  

4. Secondhand Exposure to THC

Inadvertent exposure to marijuana (via secondhand smoke) is unlikely to be enough for a person to get a positive drug test result. But it is possible. Being in a room with heavy pot smokers for several hours may cause the inhalation of enough THC-containing smoke to result in a positive test result. 

A more likely secondhand exposure scenario is a positive marijuana hair test. This results from direct contact with marijuana paraphernalia or from another person having THC on their hands.

For instance, say that someone who had direct contact with marijuana then touched your hair. You could feasibly receive a false positive on a drug screening that tests your hair.

5. CBD Oil Breaks Down in The Digestive System

Some sources report that in rare cases, false positive test results have come from CBD oil that breaks down into very small amounts of THC in the stomach. Other studies, however, have refuted this finding.

The conclusion is that it's still theoretically possible for traces of THC metabolites to be present in stomach acid when “less-purified CBD productions” are ingested.

How to Avoid a Positive CBD Drug Test

If you take CBD oil, you can take steps to try to prevent failing a drug test:

  • Do thorough research to ensure the CBD product you're using is pure and that the company is legitimate.
  • Ensure that the CBD oil is an isolate product extracted from a viable industrial hemp supply. It should not be a low-quality tincture.
  • Ask questions about product processing techniques and the possibility of cross-contamination.
  • Avoid secondhand exposure to marijuana use via pot smoking or hair contact from THC users.

A Word From Verywell

In theory, getting a false positive on a drug test from CBD oil should be relatively impossible from pure CBD oil containing less than .3 percent THC. However, because CBD oil is not well regulated, there is no guarantee that a product contains pure CBD oil, or that its concentration is safe or effective. Use the utmost caution and do your research when purchasing a quality CBD oil product to ensure its purity, especially if you need to undergo a drug screening.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s in CBD oil that causes a positive drug test?

    Drug tests look for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the element in marijuana that causes a high. CBD oils can have trace amounts of THC even if they're labeled “THC-free.” The FDA does not regulate these products, and mislabeling is common.

  • Can cannabis products used for medicinal reasons cause a positive drug test?

    Yes. If those products contain THC, you could test positive. If you know you’ll need to take a drug test, avoid full-spectrum CBD products that may contain small amounts of THC. Be sure you purchase products from a reliable source. And be wary of online retailers; researchers have found that 21% of online CBD and hemp products were mislabeled.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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