Workplace drug testing is common across the pond, but UK law regulates this practice more strictly. Generally speaking, employees in the UK may only be subjected to drug testing if there’s a clear health and safety reason — and you’ll usually know that your employer requires regular drug tests before you’re hired.
Are you among the relatively small number of employees subject to drug testing in the UK? Do you have to take drug tests for another reason, like being in a drug rehab programme or playing professional sports?
If so, you’re right to be concerned about the possibility that using CBD products may lead to a positive drug test.
This guide gives you the foundation you need to make an informed decision.
What Do Cannabis Drug Tests Detect?
Drug screening tests look for evidence that someone has recently used commonly-abused drugs. These tests detect opiates, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, cocaine, amphetamines, and cannabinoids. They may also look for more specific drugs.
Marijuana is a Class B controlled substance in the UK, which means it is illegal to use without a medical marijuana license. This fact can be explained by its psychoactive and addictive potential. The cannabinoid that gets users high is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Drug tests look for THC metabolites, specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxyclic acid (THCA).
Urine testing is the most common way to conduct drug tests. In these cases, it’s common practice for the lab to look for a concentration of THC metabolites above 50 nanograms per millilitre. THC metabolites may be detected three to 15 days after use and longer in the case of regular users.
Blood, saliva, and hair can also be tested to establish whether someone has been using drugs — but these methods aren’t nearly as common.
What Does That Mean for CBD Consumers?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the numerous cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa. It is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, so drug tests do not look for CBD — and it will, therefore, not show up in standard drug tests at all. (It is possible to test for the presence of CBD, but workplace drug tests won’t do that as CBD is not a controlled substance.)
Does that mean you’re in the clear if you’ve added CBD products to your wellness routine and you’re subjected to a workplace drug test? Not necessarily.
The CBD in commercially-available cannabidiol products in the UK is typically extracted from industrial hemp, a variety of Cannabis sativa naturally low in the compound THC. Industrial hemp may not have a THC content of more than 0.02 per cent in the UK and European Union or 0.03 per cent in the United States.
Likewise, legally-available CBD products cannot have a THC content above this trace amount, which does not cause mind-altering effects.
So, CBD products don’t have a lot of THC — but depending on your chosen product, there may be some. Let’s take a closer look:
- Full-spectrum CBD products don’t just contain CBD. They also feature other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, and flavonoids. In the UK, these products may have a THC content of up to 0.02 per cent — higher than other CBD products.
- Broad-spectrum CBD products contain the same compounds. They have further been processed to ensure that only trace amounts of THC may remain.
- CBD isolates are pure CBD products that do not contain any other cannabinoids.
So, Will You Test Positive for THC After Using CBD Products?
Using CBD products won’t generally generate a positive drug test, but you’re right to have the possibility on your radar.
A 2020 study examined the possibility that CBD consumers subject to drug testing in the United States might test positive for THC. The authors examined how various CBD products affected subjects’ urine drug test results, using a CBD dose of 100 mg.
The authors found that CBD-only products (CBD isolates) did not lead to a positive THC test, but full-spectrum and CBD products, which contain small amounts of THC, sometimes do.
In short, will you test positive for THC after using full-spectrum CBD products? It’s possible. Keep reading to examine that further.
Choosing CBD Products: Advice for Consumers Who Want to Stay THC-Free
CBD consumers who are subjected to drug tests may test positive for THC for a variety of reasons:
- You are most likely to test positive for THC after using full-spectrum CBD products, which may have a THC content of up to 0.02 per cent. It makes sense that long-term consumption and higher doses both increase this risk. Choosing a CBD isolate product is a safer bet.
- CBD products are not always correctly labelled. The CBD market remains somewhat unregulated, despite efforts to enforce strict rules. Some consumers may buy incorrectly-labelled CBD products. It’s even possible for these products to have a high THC content.
- People buying CBD from medical marijuana dispensaries may risk some cross-contamination, as a CBD product comes into contact with products high in THC.
- If you have been around people smoking marijuana, it is even possible to inhale enough THC to get a positive test — unrelated to your use of CBD products.
The first two concerns are most relevant to the average UK CBD consumer facing workplace drug testing. Choose CBD isolate products to minimise your risk of testing positive for THC. Even more crucially, only buy CBD products from reputable manufacturers.
CBD manufacturers that subject their products to third-party lab testing can give you access to a certificate of analysis (CoA), which shows you how much THC (if any) the product contains. It is also good to look for CBD manufacturers that have applied for authorisation from the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency).
Concerned About CBD and Drug Testing? Inform Your Employer
People who are worried that using CBD products may lead to a positive THC test have a valid concern. Whether you have to take drug tests for work, as part of a rehab programme, for sports, or for any other reason, it’s important to be fully aware of the risks.
Your safest course of action is to inform your employer or other relevant authority that you’re interested in adding CBD products to your wellness routine. Ask whether the relevant authority has any specific policies about using CBD, and wait for feedback before you start taking cannabidiol.
This proactive approach does two things:
- You’ll be better informed about the risks of using full-spectrum CBD products and better placed to decide whether CBD is right for you.
- If you were to have a positive THC test, your employer or other relevant authority would already know why. This may be useful, especially if you’ve been told that using CBD products is fine.
Remember, however, that it’s up to you to take reasonable steps to ensure that your CBD products don’t contain more than 0.02 per cent THC, even if your employer gives you the green light to use cannabidiol. Always buy CBD from reputable sources!
CBD and Drug Testing: A Final Word
Cannabidiol (CBD) is not a controlled substance in the UK, so drug tests do not look for its presence in your system.
However, some CBD products contain THC. Full-spectrum CBD products can have a THC content of up to 0.02 per cent, which may lead to a positive drug test in some cases. CBD products may also be mislabelled. That’s why buying from a reputable manufacturer that facilitates third-party lab testing is so important.
To be on the safe side, it’s usually best to let your employer or other relevant authority know that you want to use CBD products. Get a written policy on the matter, and if you’re told CBD isn’t a problem, you should be fine.
In these cases, it’s often advisable to stick to CBD isolate products made by reputable manufacturers — which do not contain any THC.