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After 4/20: Drug Tests and Legal Weed

There's a big gray area within all that green

The joke goes, if 4/20 is a stoner holiday, then 4/21 is National Surprise Drug Test Day. Amusing yes, but true? That’s not as clear. Either way, now that weed is legal in California, how exactly do pre-employment drug screens work? Can you still be denied employment (or fired) for testing positive for cannabis on a drug test? In today’s post, we try to answer those questions and more.

Can I still be fired or denied employment for testing positive for cannabis?

Yes. Despite a whole lot of politicians recently pulling a 180 on marijuana, it’s still illegal at the federal level. So if you’re up for a federal job, consuming cannabis is still probably not worth the risk. The same goes for jobs that require high cognitive abilities, like commercial driving - positive tests for marijuana will still negatively affect your chances of being and/or staying hired. When in doubt, check the employee handbook.

How long does it take for THC to leave my system?

That depends on many factors, including:

  • How much/how often you smoke. Not only will daily smokers test positive for THC far longer than occasional smokers, but heavy daily users will also likely be worse off than a person who smokes a single bowl every day before bedtime. Experts say if you smoke once, it will take roughly 8 days for that THC to leave your body - the generally accepted time frame is around 30 days.
  • How fat or skinny you are/how fast your metabolism is. THC builds up in fat cells, so people with more fat have more room to store THC. And with that, the slower your metabolism, the longer it will take for THC to fully leave your system.
  • Hydration and activity levels. Simply put, the more you pee and the more exercise you get, the faster those cannabis metabolites will leave your system. Don’t go overboard with the water though - excessive amounts of water will dilute your urine to the point that it’s unusable for the test, and you can actually die from drinking too much water. As for exercise, it helps break down those troublesome THC-filled fat cells, and less is definitely more here.

As if we weren’t jealous enough already of those 20-somethings who can eat anything and never gain weight.

Exercising can help reduce the amount of THC in your system.

Exercising can help reduce the amount of THC in your system.

Do different types of cannabis products stay in my system longer than others?

Yes, but that time is negligible. Edibles will cause THC to stay in your system anywhere from a few hours up to a day longer than it would if you had smoked or vaped your cannabis.

How do I remove THC from my system?

The most obvious answer: quit consuming cannabis. There’s no THC to get rid of if it’s not entering your body in the first place. You can also address factors that affect THC levels in your body by staying hydrated and exercising regularly. Following our advice but still not sure if you’ll pass a test? Buy a marijuana test kit and try it yourself.

If all else fails, some companies do sell synthetic urine that you can use to beat a test, but we don’t recommend dishonesty or leaving things to chance like that.

Will CBD cause me to fail a drug test?

No, and if you do, it’s probably a false positive. Traditional urine tests only screen for THC metabolites, not CBD. Yes, CBD is derived from cannabis plants, which contain THC, but the amount is so small it will not register on a test. Experts estimate you’d need to consume thousands of milligrams of CBD per day to build up a large enough concentration of THC in your body for a positive result. For reference, California considers 10 mg of THC to be the standard “serving” size.

Drug tests screen for THC metabolites, not CBD, so using CBD should not cause you to fail a test.

Drug tests screen for THC metabolites, not CBD, so using CBD should not cause you to fail a test.

Summing Up: Drug Tests and Legal Cannabis

Unfortunately, it’s still a very gray area when it comes to this green topic. Some employers will continue to test for cannabis. Others will not. Testing positive might cost you your job, or maybe it won’t. There’s also no specific "half-life" for THC in the human body - how long weed stays in your system depends entirely on you and your actions (or lack thereof).

What’s a cannaseur to do? Stay informed, stay active and stay hydrated.


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