Pinpointing exactly how long marijuana stays in the body is not an easy task. How often you use it plays a big part in the answer. The way an individual’s body processes the drug makes a difference too. Another important part of the equation is the drug test itself. Actually, there are several factors to consider when wondering how long weed will show up on a drug test.

Let’s break it down a bit further.

Your body

We may as well start at the source. When you smoke marijuana or use any of its by-products, the body metabolizes the THC leaving behind a specific metabolite commonly called THC-COOH. It’s stored throughout the body, mainly in the fat cells, but also in places such as the hair follicle.

As more of the metabolites collect in the fat cells, the amount of time that the drug is detected in the body increases. It makes sense, then, that if someone is overweight there is a greater number of metabolites collected than someone who leads an active lifestyle and is in good shape.

Frequency of use

Someone who occasionally uses marijuana in any form is unlikely to test positive after a day or two. Someone who uses the drug around four times a week normally passes a drug test after about five days.

However, a chronic user, meaning someone that uses the drug daily, has a build up of THC in their system. It is likely to take months to rid themselves of all drug metabolites.

Concentration

You have probably heard that the THC levels in marijuana are on the rise. As more and more states legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use, those that market the product are hard at work crossing strains of the plant. Their goal is to increase the THC level which yields a more marketable product.

Higher THC levels make the plant more potent, but they also leave chemical traces in the body longer.

Smoking vs. edibles

When someone smokes or vapes marijuana, the THC levels in the body drop within a few days, or in some cases hours, after use. However, if  you eat a cookie or drink some tea, the THC breaks down at a slower rate. The chemicals can be detected for longer periods of time.

Drug issues

There are also some drugs that slow down your body’s excretion process. This happens because they alter the levels of THC in your body.

These drugs include:

  • Keoconazole
  • Clarithyromycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Cyclosporine
  • Verapamil
  • Itraconazole
  • Voriconazole
  • Boceprevir

Testing methods

There are three drug tests that employers most often choose for employee drug testing. They are the urine, hair follicle, and mouth swab drug tests. A blood test is very expensive and usually reserved for extreme cases, such as a post-accident drug test for example.

Urine drug test

A positive result on a urine drug test varies depending on the frequency of use.

  • If someone uses marijuana randomly they will likely test negative after just a day or two after smoking or using a marijuana by-product.
  • Someone who smokes marijuana a few times a week and takes a drug test less than five days after using will probably test positive.
  • Chronic marijuana users can test positive on the urine test for about sixty days after they stop using the drug.

Mouth swab drug test

The mouth swab drug test, also known as the saliva drug test, picks up on recent drug use. The time frame for testing positive after using marijuana is up to 24 hours.

Hair follicle drug test

The hair follicle drug test is unique in that it’s capable of detecting drug use for 90 days prior to the test. Metabolites stored in the hair follicle actually grow out into the hair shaft. They become a part of the hair itself. Consequently, hair tests document drug use for longer periods of time. However, the standard length of hair used for the test is one and one-half inches. Most human hair grows at a rate of about a half an inch a month.

Blood drug test

Blood drug tests have the shortest window of detection. It is only possible to detect marijuana in the blood for a few hours. However, in the event of an accident, it’s important to know if an employee was impaired by drug use. A blood test given as soon as possible after an accident can help employers determine if drug use somehow played a part.

Impairment

It is a proven fact that marijuana impairs the user for a time. It affects cognitive and motor skills. While under the influence, users are unable to focus, may have memory issues, delayed reaction times, and balance can be affected as well.

It has been thought that impairment only lasts a few hours, peaking within an hour after smoking and around two hours after eating. Smokers no longer feel the affects of marijuana after a couple of hours, but the total time of impairment for those who ingest it by eating edibles or drinking tea is closer to five hours.

However, studies have shown that there may be long-term issues as well. Teens who begin using heavily and continue use into adulthood run the risk of actually lowering their IQ scores by as much as 8 points. In addition, there are studies that say those who begin using as teens also risk permanently changing the way the brain builds connections in regard to thinking, memory and learning functions.

CBD products

Even though some companies promote the fact that you can’t test positive for marijuana if using CBD products, we beg to differ.

There is no regulation of the extraction process so these companies have no testing standards to compare too. THC mixes with the CBD oils during the extraction process. With nothing in place to set acceptable levels, the amount of THC ingested through CBD products is a roll of the dice.

Odds are you have employees that use CBD products.

It is said to relieve a multitude of symptoms. Alerting them to the fact that they are in danger of testing positive for marijuana on a drug test could benefit someone greatly; especially, if your company has a random testing policy in place.