Kicking Out Cannabis: How Long Is Marijuana Detectable In Your Body?
(Spoiler: It Depends)
By: Joshua Waldrop
A number of factors contribute to how long marijuana remains detectable in your system
These include: amount consumed, method of consumption, strength of cannabis, body mass/type, metabolism, hydration level, and individual tolerance levels
4 primary methods of testing: urine, blood, hair follicle, saliva
Sure fire way to pass a drug test: *SPOILER* Don’t smoke.
As nationwide cannabis legalization inches ever nearer and more states jump on the marijuana bandwagon social acceptance of the herb’s use continues to become more mainstream. However, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and while a growing number of states continue to go green, cannabis legislature, depending on the state in which you live, is rife with restrictions and red tape. A growing number of the 33 states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes and the 10 where recreational consumption has been all but decriminalized have passed law or amended current law to protect employees from being fired should they pop a pot positive on a mandated drug test. While that’s a great first step, there’s still work to be done.
Even in states that have embraced the marijuana mandate, many employers can still terminate or deny you employment should you test positive. This is obviously problematic seeing as how THC, the primary psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, can remain in your system for anywhere from hours to months, depending on a myriad of contributing factors. Especially when considering that testing for marijuana inebriation is inexact and inconsistent.
So...if you chief the cheeba and find yourself faced with the prospect of a mandatory drug test, you’re basically screwed right? Not necessarily.
Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University, explained to Leafly.com the myriad of factors that can contribute to testing positive for marijuana.
“There is no typical window of detection. It is highly variable from person to person and it varies based on the frequency of use and the amount of use. So there is no way of predicting or knowing how long someone would test positive with any kind of certainty.”
Several factors such as how much cannabis you consume, how strong your marijuana is, what kind of strain, your body mass index (how fat or thin you are), what form you consumed your cannabis in (Flower? Oil? Wax? Edible?), tolerance levels, how hydrated you are, and your body’s own metabolism can contribute to how long you marijuana remains detectable in your body. It all boils down to your body’s endocannabinoid system.
In addition, your susceptibility for testing positive for cannabis depends on the method of testing being employed. Currently, there are four general means of testing for marijuana in your system: urine testing, blood testing, hair follicle testing, and saliva. While some jurisdictions are in the process of trying to produce a reliable mechanism by which to test for THC via breathalyzer, the same manner in which law enforcement agencies often test for alcohol intoxication, it remains in early experimental testing phases, along with sweat and even fingernail testing.
It is generally accepted that marijuana can appear in your urine anywhere from 7 to 30 days depending on the frequency of your usage, although some rare instances have seen urine test positive for cannabis up to 100 days after use. In some cases where the cannabis user consumes only occasionally, such as a first time, urine tests have come back negative only a few days after use. Urine testing remains by far the most popular method of testing for cannabis in the system.
Blood testing is growing in popularity due to its immediacy. Upon inhaling or ingesting marijuana, THC is almost immediately present in the bloodstream, having been absorbed through directly through your tissues and organs. For moderate users, this can result in a positive cannabis detection for generally 2 to 7, and in some cases, up to 25 days after use. For infrequent or first time users, it is possible for a blood test to come back negative after only 24 hours since last use.
Hair follicle testing is sometimes used in stricter instances. Given the rate at which hair grows and the distribution of THC through tiny blood vessels to the hair line, marijuana can be detected for as long as three to four months. In some rare instances of heavy and chronic use, it is possible for cannabis to appear in a hair follicle test years after use. This method of testing is generally ineffective and inefficient for infrequent or occasional users.
While some sources maintain that saliva testing has proven unreliable, many law enforcement agencies are attempting to develop a method of oral swabbing for roadside testing for cannabis intoxication. This is based on marijuana detectability in saliva anywhere from 1 to 30 days depending on use, according to Healthline.com.
“Testing is usually a two-step process. The first step is a qualitative yes/no with a typical cutoff of 50 ng/mL. If you see a qualitative positive, you then send it off for confirmation with a more sensitive quantitative assessment that uses a 15 ng/mL cutoff,” said Vandrey.
As the Denver Post explains, cannabis drug testing doesn’t actually test for THC in your system, but rather carboxy-THC, a breakdown metabolite of marijuana. Generally speaking, drug testing for cannabis operates on a 50 ng/mL threshold. This means that, by and large, carboxy-THC levels rated under 50 nanograms per milliliter are considered to have tested negative while levels testing above are considered a failure. While this is the average threshold, some tests register for as low as 15 ng/mL and as much as 100 ng/mL.
Marijuana is fat-soluble, not water-soluble. A such, cannabinoids are stored in your fat cells. As Dependent on your exercise regimen, diet, and body type, THC can be released into your system dependent on the metabolization of your fat cells. While it is not common to pass a drug screening for cannabis via dilution, and in actuality attempts at doing so can result in a drug test failure by way of cover up even if there isn’t enough detectable marijuana in your system, how much water you drink can affect how prevalent THC appears in your system.
Also, if you’re thinking that the easy solution is simply to attempt a UFC-style weight cut and burn off those fat stored cannabinoids, think again. Increase in exercise and fat burning, even stress, actually releases that stored THC directly into your system. This has occasionally resulted in individuals who had previously tested negative for cannabis testing positive later on even though they had not consumed any marijuana within that time span.
So...how long is marijuana detectable in your body? Awhile, depending on your individual contributing factors. The only sure fire way to pass a pending drug test with flying colors: take a tolerance break.