One of the biggest challenges facing companies pertaining to workplace safety and CBD use by employees revolves around drug testing. Many employers have a zero-tolerance policy on drug use and therefor institute drug testing policies to ensure those workplace safety standards are met. But with the legalization of hemp-based CBD products, there seems to be a lack of understanding when it comes to (the) THC specific drug test (or testing?) and CBD use. In this month’s article I want to cover some facts pertaining to drug testing and CBD use so employers and individuals can make educated decisions based off facts rather than false or inaccurate information. So, with that, let’s dive a little deeper into those tests to see exactly what they are looking for and how one can ensure a good outcome if tested.

First, let us look at what is used as the standard for drug testing. What is generally used as the norm for drug testing is a urine based 5 or 10 panel drug test. The number indicates the number of different drugs that are being tested for. When we are talking about CBD, the tests are looking for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the specific chemical in Marijuana that creates a “high” or psychoactive effect within the brain. Under the 2018 Hemp Farm Bill Act, hemp can contain up to 0.3% of THC. Now understand that the legal amount of 0.3% in some products is not enough for anyone to feel those effects, but it is enough that some one could potentially test positive for THC on a drug test. Not all CBD products will contain THC as there are some out there that are refined/processed in a way that removes the THC from the product to where there is no detectable amount.

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Another thing to be cognizant about when it comes to CBD is a by product which can be found in some CBD items and that is CBN (Cannabinol). CBN is a by product of hemp and is sometimes included with certain CBD products. CBN is a derivative of THC even though it will not get you “high”. There are a handful of studies that are suggesting that if the product has CBN included, then you could potentially get a false positive for THC. If for some reason that happened, then it is normal for a confirmatory test take place to distinguish CBD from other compounds. With more and more studies being done, we will be learning more about the hemp plant in general and how things like drug testing will need to evolve in order to facilitate the use of CBD since it is a legal product.

While researching and testing THC drug tests against CBD options that are on the market, here is an interesting fact that we ran across when it comes to THC specific tests. There are several medications and foods that can cause a false positive on a THC specific test other than CBD. Over the counter medications such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve and PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors) like Omeprazole, Osomeprazole, and Pantoprazole can result in a false positive for THC. If the test is not THC specific and is a Cannabinoid in general test, then additional things such as certain foods and items such as coconut oil, olive oil, and fruits have been known to test positive for cannabinoids. These are just a handful of things out there that can give a false positive so be aware. Again, if your CBD contains any THC, it could potentially result in a positive test. If it is THC and CBN free and you have 3rd party lab results that back it up, then you should be good to go on a THC specific test. 

Urine testing is by far the most widely used test due to accuracy and cost. But if someone wants to know if an employee is under the influence of a substance, then oral/saliva testing would be more accurate than urine or any other test. Oral saliva testing tests for drugs that are currently in the system whereas urine testing requires THC to be metabolized which can take up to 6-12 hours. Since THC is fat soluble, rather than water soluble, it does not directly cross into oral fluids. This means that via oral/swab testing THC can be detected immediately and for up to 24 hrs. As an employer, that is something to think about regarding testing. Do you really care what they do in their off time or is the concern more of not being under the influence when at work? If it is the second, then oral saliva testing makes more sense.

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Another benefit of oral testing is that risk of someone altering a urine test is significantly reduced. When a subject must take a urine test, they are unsupervised during the collection process which allows for potential tampering of the test. But with oral saliva testing, subjects can be supervised for the entire test to ensure that the collection is legitimate and untampered with. Another interesting fact pertaining to CBD use is that to date, there is not any test readily available that just tests for CBD. And honestly CBD is just one compound within many of the cannabinoid family that has benefits for individuals and there is not any testing for those either other than THC.

Next on the list of tests is hair follicle testing. This is where they take hair, primarily from the head but can be taken from anywhere and is tested for THC and other drugs. Hair follicle tests can be drug specific or test for a variety of illicit drugs. With hair testing, the test is specifically looking for chronic substance use rather than occasional use. The hair follicle test is a twostep process but is not 100% accurate. Some things that affect the accuracy of hair follicle testing are quantity of drugs consumed, the amount a person sweats, bleaching/coloring of hair, the amount of melanin in a person’s hair, and the drug compound structures themselves. Another downside to hair follicle testing is that it takes 5-7 days for a substance to show up in hair whereas urine, oral, and blood testing will show consumption within just a few hours. Another interesting fact regarding hair testing which is found in a 2017 study is that researches agreed that due to the inaccuracies of false positive AND false negatives, that hair follicle testing is too unreliable when compared to other testing options.

Last on the list is blood testing. Blood testing is the most expensive and invasive testing currently available. It is the most accurate when it comes to drug testing, but the detection window is relatively short. Blood testing is typically done to detect the concentration levels of drugs or alcohol in the body. It does take longer to develop than urine, but it does measure how intoxicated an individual may be. This would be a key component when testing is being done for a workplace accident or injury on the job. When it comes to THC, it will detect amounts in the body for up to 30 days potentially. Due to the expense and invasiveness, this is simply not a test that is normally used. 

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What does all this mean for the normal person who takes CBD and is worried about drug testing? Knowing how and what your being tested on is half the battle. I am amazed at how many employers may institute drug testing, but then have no idea as to the type of actual test their employees are subjected to. Same goes for employees themselves. Ask and understand the type of testing that you may be subjected to. It’s important to know if your drug test is THC SPECIFIC or cannabinoid in general. Remember, there are lots of things that can result in a positive if the test is cannabinoid and not THC specific.

Second, educate yourself on the CBD products you choose to take. Look for transparency within the CBD manufacturer when it comes to the ingredient list of the product, is it THC free or do they specify that there may be up to the legal limit of 0.3%. If it is THC free, look for third party independent lab results or for COA on the products you consume.

Third, look for additional testing results or take a test yourself. The one thing we have done with our product line of First Responder Fuel products is independent drug testing to verify that our products would not test positive on a THC specific test. Something that you as an individual can do as well if you are truly worried about a product you are taking. There are various inexpensive over the counter THC specific drug tests available through places like Amazon. Within about 2-5 minutes you can have piece of mind on whether you will test positive or not. We also took the liberty of not only doing over the counter drug testing, but we as a company and manufacturer went to the extent of taking a standard Department of Transportation 10 panel drug test to back up and solidify our drug test results while on First Responder Fuel hemp infused products. Those tests are typically about $40-$50 dollars and it is readily available at lab testing facilities or through your regular physician. 

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To sum it up, if your CBD is THC free, then the odds of you testing positive for THC are pretty much nonexistent. This is where vetting what you take can go along ways in preventing a potential negative outcome with testing. If you take a product that has up to the legal limit of 0.3% THC, then over time that accumulation could potentially cause a positive THC test result. Not guaranteed and the likelihood is low, but it could still happen. So, if you are subjected to drug testing, it is better to be safe than sorry and go with a THC free CBD product. We are in a new and fast paced era when it comes to CBD and cannabis use. Employers, labs, and policies are having to play catch up with the new laws as well as overcome a stigma associated with CBD and cannabis use. This will all take time, but I believe we are headed in the right direction. Until then, it is up to you to do your homework and make the best decision that fits your needs as an employer and employee. Until next time, be safe and take care of yourself and your employees as we are all in this together.


About the Author

Lee Vernon
CEO/Owner, First Responder Fuel CBD Lee@firstresponderfuel.com

Lee Vernon is a 26+ year (retired) first responder who started First Responder Fuel CBD in order to provide medical grade quality THC free CBD products to first responders and the general public. Lee spent a year traveling the United States to find the highest quality hemp production and extraction processes in order to bring the highest quality medical grade CBD products to individuals that are looking for a natural option to improve their overall mental and physical health. First Responder Fuel CBD believes in offering the highest quality products with integrity, honesty, and compassion. Lee is also the founder and board member for the Brotherhood of Heroes Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 charity for first responders. A portion of every sale of First Responder Fuel CBD products is donated back to the Brotherhood of Heroes Foundation to continue helping those that sacrifice their lives daily.