Can CBD Lead to a Positive Drug Test?

Even in states where marijuana is now legal, some employers may search for traces of THC in urine during drug tests. A new study has found that CBD, which contains little to no THC, may still lead to a positive test result.

Clearly, that’s something CBD users need to be aware of. Although, really, it says more about a system that needs to be changed rather than habits of hemp-derived CBD users, a product that is legal in all 50 states thanks to the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill.

The study, led by researchers from Harvard Medical School and published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, found that those who consistently use full-spectrum, hemp-derived produce may produce a positive result on a urine drug test.

“It is often assumed individuals using hemp-derived products will test negative for THC. Current results indicate this may not be true,” the researchers wrote.

Mitigating Factors in the Study

The 14 patients in the study at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. took a milliliter of CBD three times per day. The CBD contained THC levels below the federal standard of 0.3 percent. At the end of the study, 50 percent of test subjects tested positive for THC on a urinary drug screen. THC is the chemical compound in cannabis that causes the “high.”

The researchers noted that further study is needed to thoroughly assess the impact of variables that could lead to a positive test result. The long list of those variables includes:

  • Amount of product use
  • Body mass index
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Use of other medications

The researchers noted these factors may have led to positive results in some patients, especially those with higher levels of creatinine.

Implications For CBD Industry, Consumers

Hemp-derived CBD products are now sold in many different stores across the country. With Congress making hemp legal, consumers should have no fear that they are violating the law or their workplace drug policies.

In writing about the study, the pro-cannabis group NORML noted that the U.S. Navy currently bans the use of CBD products out of concern it might expose sailors to THC. However, NORML reports that using CBD without any presence of THC will not give a positive reading on a drug test because CBD does not convert to THC when metabolized by the body.

A study from Germany recently verified this. German researchers, reviewing study literature, concluded that CBD does not convert to THC after consumption. Instead, the researchers said a positive THC urine tests from someone who had consumed THC “are the result of products being tainted with THC,” possibly under certain storage conditions that can lead CBD to crystalize to THC.

The Harvard test results also could lead to more innovation in the testing equipment for drug tests and may cause some companies to reconsider whether they should test for THC in the first place, which has been an ongoing issue for years.

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