How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?
If you have been using medical cannabis for your health needs, you have probably tried various products and strains. Over time, patients can narrow down the strains of cannabis and intake methods that work best.
If you take cannabis for chronic pain symptoms the night before, are you okay with driving in the morning? You may not feel impaired, but is your body still under the influence of THC? This self-evaluation is important for your personal safety. And to avoid legal problems and liability, including the risk of driving under the influence (DUI).
People frequently as how long cannabis remains in the body for a variety of reasons. The answer is complex because it depends on a number of different factors.
What Kinds of Jobs Require Regular Drug Tests?
If you dream of working for the federal government, having a medical card may not be an option. Even though states have legalized medical cannabis, it remains a prohibited substance. Federal employees who test positive for drug use can face dismissal and, in some cases, felony charges.
Many professions require randomized or annual drug tests, including:
- Law Enforcement.
While some employers require a drug test as part of the hiring process, the company may also periodically test existing employees. Some companies have accommodative policies for employees who are registered patients in a state medical cannabis program.
If you use medical cannabis regularly to help moderate your symptoms, choosing the right job can be difficult. But many companies disclose mandatory drug testing in the job application and an employment offer.
Does HIPAA Protect Me From Drug Tests?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not provide an exemption from drug testing. But it does provide privacy and protection to patients concerning the results of drug tests.
Drug tests are confidential. Employees who test positive for THC (or another controlled substance) can be assured that their results will not be shared. The Human Resource Manager may see the drug test results as a “pass or fail” without additional information regarding the type of drug.
Medical information about employees includes drug test results. It is a legal requirement for employers to keep all health details separate from general personnel records. Personal health information (PHI) is shared only on a “need-to-know” basis. For example, when an employee is suspected of drug abuse.
What Determines How Long Weed Stays in Your System?
The average time marijuana stays in your system is 10-30 days longer than many think. That is because THC is absorbed into cells and tissues and can even be stored in fat deposits throughout the body.
What determines the amount of time for cannabis to leave your body? That’s an important question if you must take a marijuana drug test. Naturally, it can depend on how often you use it and other factors.
Potency of Cannabis Consumed
This one is a no-brainer. If you take higher-potency cannabis products, you are ingesting more THC. Therefore, more THC is absorbed into the body, and it can take longer for traces of marijuana to be low enough that they do not pose a safety (or legal) issue.
Frequency of Marijuana Use
Some people use medical marijuana as needed when other methods of moderating symptoms do not provide relief. Other people use medical cannabis daily or several times every day.
If you ingest marijuana daily, it can take up to 90 days for traces of THC to leave your body. Assuming you were able to eliminate THC use. If you continue to use cannabis daily, you will maintain a baseline level of THC metabolites in your body. And a drug test will be able to detect marijuana.
Another important consideration for non-cannabis users is secondhand marijuana smoke. If you don’t use cannabis but are around people who do, you may test positive through a urine sample or blood test. But recent clinical studies suggest marijuana becomes undetectable twenty-four (24) hours after exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
People with a higher body mass index (BMI) hold on to THC longer. While fat cells can absorb THC, it has more to do with the individual’s metabolic rate. Your metabolism will determine how long it takes to remove THC from your body altogether.
You have a higher metabolism if you are a healthy weight, and THC won’t hang around in your body long. But if you have more body fat and a slower metabolism, it will take longer for your body to break down and remove traces of THC.
Genetics and Metabolism
Your tolerance for cannabis has a lot to do with genetics. Some people can take a small amount of cannabis and experience all the physical and psychoactive effects for hours. Other people seem to have a shorter duration where they feel impaired by marijuana.
Genetics plays a strong role in absorbing (and retaining) THC in the body. There is one gene code for each protein in the body. And humans have approximately 20,000 genes in an estimated 37 trillion cells in our bodies.
There can be genetic variants in enzymes that process THC. Your genetic code will determine how quickly you absorb THC and how long it stays in your body. Some people with a high concentration of specific enzymes can rapidly accelerate THC’s processing (and excretion).
How Does the Liver Metabolize THC?
When you ingest cannabis, the THC is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. As blood travels through the body, small amounts of THC are temporarily stored in other places, like organs and body fat.
Faced with an unexpected drug test, some people believe drinking a large quantity of water will help flush the THC out of their bodies. Hydration is good, but it won’t help remove THC from your cells any faster.
The liver is responsible for breaking down THC. And it is a tougher job than it seems because marijuana has more than 100 metabolites. The liver metabolizes THC into two molecules, CYP2C and CYP3A, transforming THC into 11-OH-THC (psychoactive) and 11-COOH-THC (non-psychoactive).
What happens next? The body eliminates THC. Approximately 65% of THC is excreted in stool, and 20% of THC is expelled through urine. The process takes time; unfortunately, there are no ways to expedite removing THC from your system.
If you are a daily cannabis user, you will have a higher baseline concentration of THC. This means more metabolites for the liver to process, and a longer duration before THC completely leaves your body.
The Four Types of Drug Tests for Cannabis Use
Many times, participating in a drug test will be mandatory for legal reasons or even as part of an interview for a new job. Some employers have a zero-drug policy, which applies to patients with a medical card.
Unfortunately, it is up to the employer’s discretion, and there are no labor protections for patients who use medical marijuana. You can be suspended or fired if you fail an employer’s random drug test.
Four types of drug tests are administered:
1. Blood Tests
How long does weed stay in your bloodstream? Long after the psychoactive effects of cannabis have worn off, molecules of THC hang around. They are absorbed by organ tissue, fat cells, and blood cells.
2. Saliva Test
For most people, THC can be detected by saliva tests up to 72 hours after marijuana is consumed. While cannabis can enter the saliva by inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke, the saliva tests for metabolites. THC will only be detectable through saliva tests if cannabis has been smoked or ingested.
The cannabis saliva test is commonly used by law enforcement during traffic stops. That is because it is easy to administer and provides an accurate reading. Unlike alcohol, where there is a legal limit of 0.08% blood alcohol content, when it comes to cannabis, there is no legal limit.
If a roadside marijuana saliva drug test reports positive results, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). And demonstrating sobriety won’t help; you can still be charged even if you do not feel impaired.
3. Urine Analysis
Another standard drug test administered in the workplace or by law enforcement involves a urine sample. Does weed actually show up on a urine test? It does, but the period that THC remains detectable in a urine test is variable.
How long THC will stay in your system depends on how often you consume cannabis.
- If you have used cannabis once, THC will be present in a urine test for up to three days.
- Moderate cannabis users (up to 4x per week) may have positive tests up to 7 days after they consume marijuana.
- Chronic users of cannabis (daily) will have a positive urine test result up to fifteen days post-consumption.
- Chronic heavy users of cannabis (multiple doses per day) will find that urine tests can detect THC more than thirty (30) days after marijuana is consumed.
While tobacco shops sell synthetic fluids for urine tests, they won’t work to help you pass random drug testing. Laboratory testing has come a long way, and believe it or not, the lab can identify synthetic urine. Synthetic urine will fail most urine tests for THC levels.
4. Hair Follicle Test
When you cut a tree, you can see the circles or rings of development. Hair follicles are similar. The root of each hair can provide positive tests for cannabis in the 1.5-inch sample that is taken for THC hair tests.
Cannabis can be detected in a hair test up to 90 days after marijuana use—many products on the market promise to remove THC deposits on the hair. But since the THC is absorbed in the follicle or root, those shampoos and soaps are ineffective.
Can You Get a False Positive Test for Marijuana?
If you are not a cannabis user, are there other ways that you may fail a drug test? Interestingly, tests that detect cannabis are not always perfect. And there are circumstances where you can achieve a false positive test for THC levels.
A false positive can occur for urine tests or blood tests—certain medications like NSAIDs, dronabinol, ethacrynic acid (common diuretic), efavirenz, and promethazine. If you have high riboflavin levels (vitamin B2), you may also test positive for cannabis.
When non-cannabis users test positive for THC levels, a hair follicle test may be suggested. However, hair tests can produce a false positive result, mainly if you take a daily cannabidiol (CBD) supplement.
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