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Cannabis Use and Employment: What You Need to Know About Drug Testing

Drug Testing For Employment

Many things have changed in the last year.  An unprecedented number of people are working from home and unfortunately a large number of people are unemployed and searching for a job.  Even in states where cannabis is legal for both medical as well as recreational use, drug testing for employment as a prerequisite, is fairly common across most job industries.  Once you have the job random drug testing is not as common as it was five years ago but it is certainly not unheard of in many industries.  Understanding how your cannabis use, both the amount you use and your unique physicality can impact the outcome of a mandatory drug test is important for getting and then keeping a job.

Methods of Testing Matter

Luckily for most cannabis users, the gold standard for mandatory drug testing for employment is a urine test which is a test that detects THC in the form of metabolites that are in your body after the THC in cannabis has been processed several times by your liver. So essentially the test is not really testing for THC, it’s testing for the byproducts of THC left in your body after you have consumed cannabis.  The two metabolites that are specially being tested for are THC-COOH, the most common, and 11-OH-THC.  Testing for both metabolites in a standard urine test is expensive so most companies will choose to only test for THC-COOH to keep costs down.  Speaking of costly testing for cannabis, the reason why most if not all companies do not use a blood, saliva or hair test, which would yield much more accurate results in most cases, is because of the high cost of those tests.  It is possible some high level and high paying jobs may spend the money but it is extremely unlikely.

How Long Does it Take for THC to be Out of My System?

The short answer to this question is, it’s complicated.  One of the most important factors is the amount and frequency with which you consume cannabis.  For occasional users the timeframe is between 1-3 days.  The real challenge is to determine what an occasional user means.  Broadly speaking it means consuming cannabis less than twice a month, so once every other week.  If you are a moderate cannabis user, it will take between 5-7 days for the THC to be out of your system.  A moderate user is someone who uses cannabis at least once a week with the average being twice a week.  So probably a weekend stoner.  If you are a daily user it will take between 10-15 days for the THC to be out of your system and for a heavy user it will take 30 days or more.  A heavy cannabis user is someone who consumes cannabis multiple times per day on a regular basis.  The cutoff point used by the lab and requested by your employer also matters.  For standard testing, the test will be considered positive if THC-COOH is detected at 50 ng/ml.  What that means is for most users except heavy users, they can easily pass this type of drug testing for employment after about 10 days of not consuming cannabis.  Some employers, for example law enforcement, test at a much lower threshold of 20 ng/ml.  So knowing if your employer has an absolute zero tolerance policy is useful information because they may test at this more rigorous level.

Your Unique Physicality Matters

There are factors besides what type of test you take and how much and long you have been consuming cannabis that affect the results.  Your metabolism is one such unique element.  Some people just naturally have faster metabolisms than others and for those folks, any THC and metabolites will be eliminated faster than for others.  The myth of ramping up your exercise frequency and intensity in the days before a test to ensure clean results, is just that, a myth.  In fact it may actually do more harm than good in terms of your test results.  Your hydration level matters as well.  Staying properly hydrated should be a normal part of your routine regardless if you have a test coming up or not but being dehydrated definitely increases the chances that THC and metabolites can be detected through a standard urine test.  Stay away from alcohol in the days before your test as that can contribute to dehydration.  One of the most important elements is body fat.  THC metabolites are stored in body fat meaning the more body fat you have the higher the likelihood of metabolites being detected for a longer period of time.  Cannabis users who are thin with a low BMI will have a shorter testing window to be concerned with.  In most cases woman naturally have a higher body fat percentage than men so for all you female stoners out there who are concerned they may have to pass a urine test any time soon, work on getting to a healthy BMI.  This is true for men as well but men tend to naturally have a lower body fat percentage to be worried about.

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