How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?

marijuana in system

The title varies but the question remains the same. We’ve probably all searched the topic in some form or another. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re wondering how long it’s going to take before you’re able to pass a drug test.

Even though marijuana legalization is spreading across the country, most employers aren’t considering removing marijuana from the company drug test. That poses a problem for those of us who smoke pot after hours or over the weekend because if we get popped for a test…

We’re flunking.

Some federal lawmakers are jumping on board with legalization and proposing bills that will totally remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act if passed. That’s great news! However, the majority of employers aren’t on the same page with us and—let’s face it—they didn’t start testing for alcohol until after it was legal.

Most of us realize you don’t go to work when you’re stoned, others see nothing wrong with it. Yet, it’s possible that someone who smokes a joint before going to work could cause an accident.

That said, I can certainly see things from an employer’s perspective.

The fact that there’s no test for current impairment causes a huge problem for employers. Marijuana advocates are speaking up! They feel it’s unfair to continue to drug test for pot in states that have legalized it because THC remains in the body long past the point of impairment.

Employers know it and some can even understand our plight. Still, the majority of business owners who drug test feel that until there’s a test for current impairment they have to continue using what they have available.

Unless regulated by the DOT, business owners choose when they will require marijuana drug testing and document it in their drug-free program. Not all employers require random drug testing, for instance, but safety-sensitive employers are regulated to do so.

Drug testing for marijuana

Metabolites are what remain after passing through the body’s metabolization process. So, technically, marijuana drug tests identify TH-COOH—the THC metabolite.

The majority of the metabolites stow away in the fat cells until they’re excreted from the body. The length of time they remain there directly relates to how often you smoke pot. The countdown starts right after your last joint.

  • One time use can cause a positive drug test for up to eight days.
  • Smoking pot two to four times a month puts you at risk of a positive drug test for 11-18 days.
  • If you smoke two to four times a week, you can expect a positive drug test result for 23-35 days.
  • Using marijuana five to six times per week keeps metabolites in the system between 33 and 48 days.
  • Daily use causes a positive drug test result from 49 to 70 days after discontinuing use.

The time frame for vaping is the same. However, edibles pass through the digestion system, those metabolites exit the body between seven and thirty days.

The amount of time that drug tests identify marijuana varies depending on the test the company uses.

Urine drug test

Employers use the urine test because it’s accurate and the most cost-effective. It’s become so commonplace that when employees hear there is a drug test, they expect to have to “pee in a cup.”

The length of time that urine tests detect marijuana metabolites coincides directly with the above bullet list.

I’ve heard tales from back in the day when you could pass the urine test by drinking an excessive amount of water just prior to the test. However, the sophistication of today’s laboratory equipment coupled with advances in drug testing make falsifying the test in any way nearly impossible now.

I’m thinking that the “drink this, then, drink this exact amount of water and repeat 30 minutes later” type of products probably have the science down. Even so, it’s a risky business trying to put one over on the company no matter how you go about it.

Mouth swab drug test

The mouth swab test is becoming the choice of employers looking for recent drug use. Many law enforcement agencies across the country use the mouth swab test too. It’s the go to when they suspect a driver is impaired during  a routine traffic stop or when arriving at the scene of an accident.

You’re never out of the administrator’s sight, so there’s no way to tamper with or substitute the specimen.

The administrator places a mouth swab between the lower cheek and gum and instructs you to leave the swab in place until it becomes saturated. The test usually takes no more than 5 minutes to complete unless you suffer with dry mouth—or you’re nervous, maybe?

The mouth swab test identifies marijuana for up to 24 hours after you last smoked.

Hair follicle drug test

The hair follicle drug test reports any and all drug use over a ninety-day period.

It’s the most costly of these three commonly used testing methods. However, the extended detection period causes many employers to overlook the expense. In fact, some trucking companies actually absorb the cost of a hair test in addition to the DOT regulated urine test.

It’s considered the least invasive employee drug test. It can be administered anywhere.

The technician cuts a small amount of hair (approximately 120 strands) as close to the scalp as possible.

The TH-COOH metabolites grow out into the center of the hair shaft. So, you might not want to trust the claims of products that claim to strip them from your hair.

A lot of sites promote the Macujo method. It sounds pretty harsh though. What if you wind up handing the tech a hair sample that you scooped up off your floor before heading for the test?


Blood drug test

A blood test identifies the parent drug and determines current impairment. However, the detection period is short and the test is very expensive. Only trained medical staff can administer the test within the proper setting—such as a doctor’s office or hospital.

For those reasons, blood tests are rarely used for employee drug testing. Employers usually reserve their use for post-accident testing. Being able to determine someone was impaired by marijuana or any drugs at the time an accident occurred plays a huge part in determining who is responsible.

Blood tests identify marijuana for up to 36 hours depending on frequency of use.

Variables that impact how long marijuana remains in the system

The amount of time that marijuana remains in the system varies due to several factors:

  • Individual body fat, of course, because if you have more body fat, your body retains TH-COOH longer than someone with less body fat.
  • Genetics play a part because some people naturally metabolize things faster than others.
  • Frequency of exercising
  • Frequency of use
  • Certain medical conditions impact how the body retains, stores, and metabolizes marijuana.
  • Other drugs taken can affect the amount of retention time.
  • The potency of your pot affects the amount of time it remains in the system.

What about secondhand smoke?

Have any of your non-smoking friends ever worried about exposure to secondhand smoke? Could it really make them pop positive on a drug test?

You’re initial reaction might be, “No way,” but a study conducted back in 2015 indicated that it’s possible.

If you’re outdoors, it’s not likely to happen. On the other hand, though, if a person is subjected to mass amounts of marijuana smoke in an enclosed area, they might ingest enough to test positive.

Check out your CBD

The marijuana drug test identifies THC metabolites in the system not CBD.

When they removed hemp from the definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act, it gave manufacturers a green light. Products abound!

But, with no regulations to govern the CBD extraction process, it’s pretty much a free for all. The process extracts THC from hemp plants along with the CBD. Without a standardized test, the THC levels could be high enough to cause a positive drug test result.

If you don’t smoke pot, but use CBD products every day, take time to research products before you buy them. It’s worth it to find a reputable source.

Moving forward

You’ve probably heard the news by now.

A marijuana breathalyzer will be on the market before the end of the year. Can you believe it? Employers will finally have a test for current impairment!

Never again will responsible marijuana users get called up for a test they know they can’t pass. What a relief!

Furthermore, having a test for current impairment takes the heat off of employers. It should eliminate the pressure to completely remove marijuana from company drug tests. Employers will have the ability to weed out those in their workforce who ignore company policy and show up for work under the influence.

The marijuana breathalyzer is going to become a useful tool for employers—and we can take the edge off now and then without fretting about flunking the test.

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