US Drug Test Centers Blog

CBD Versus THC: What You Need to Know

Posted: Jun 29 2018

By: Ashlee Arnold

With the recreational use of marijuana being legalized and sweeping the country, many of us are being put in a position where we need to better understand what exactly cannabis is, how it works, and when it is and isn't appropriate to use. The conversation starts to get even more confusing when you try to make the distinction between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD and THC are the two most abundant cannabinoids in cannabis. Let's talk about both, what they have in common, and how they're different.

Where They Come From

Let's back up a little. In the cannabis plant family, there are marijuana plants and hemp plants. Both CBD and THC can be found in each, but THC mostly comes from marijuana, whereas CBD is much higher in hemp.

On average, marijuana currently has approximately 12% THC, according to research. It's widely bred to be highly concentrated and to cause significantly intoxicating effects.

Conversely, hemp contains just 0.3% CBD.

Here's why it matters.

How Psychoactive They Are

This is one of the biggest differences between CBD and THC. The THC in marijuana activates certain receptors in the brain and central nervous system, and as a result, you get high.

marijuana plant

CBD does not activate these same receptors. In fact, it almost has the opposite effect of THC. Not only can you consume as much CBD as you want and still not get high, but it can also counter some of the properties of THC.

This can help explain the rapidly growing popularity of CBD-infused products, like oils, lotions, and even coffee. A growing body of research is pointing to the potential benefits of CBD, and sure enough, people are using it for all sorts of problems — like anxiety, hair care, skin ailments, pain, and depression. (It's important to note, though, that more research is required to determine the long-term effects of CBD usage and any potential risks.)

With CBD, users can enjoy the benefits while avoiding impairment. This would also help explain the difference in their legal status.

What the Law Says

While laws differ on both city and state levels, CBD is legal in all 50 states of the U.S. if it comes from low-THC hemp and not marijuana. If it does come from marijuana, it's illegal unless you get it through a regulated marijuana program or a state that allows recreational marijuana use.

THC and marijuana are not quite as clear cut, and the landscape is changing very quickly. Some states allow marijuana use for medical reasons and when it's prescribed by a doctor. More specifically, some of these states have legalized marijuana use for recreational purposes. This doesn't, however, automatically give people the freedom to consume marijuana as they see fit. In the workplace, for instance, the employer determines what is and isn't allowed, with their drug-free workplace policy.

Check the laws where you live, as well as the rules of your workplace, because it differs across state lines and employers.

marijuana jointTheir Effect on the Human Body

Research notes some of the medical uses of marijuana include pain control, and the treatment of Parkinson's disease, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, glaucoma, HIV, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and PTSD.

Despite its many applications and benefits, there are still reasons to take caution when using marijuana. Aside from needing to be informed about your local and state laws, there is your job to consider. Even if recreational marijuana use has been legalized in your state, your employer ultimately crafts your drug-free workplace policy and maintains the right to decide what is and is not allowed at their place of business when it comes to marijuana use. If you ever test positive for THC and your workplace policy forbids this — regardless of the law — the employer reserves the right to manage the situation as they see fit.

Furthermore, science hasn't yet determined conclusively what the long-term effects of marijuana are, and how consuming large amounts may affect you. Even if it's legalized where you live, marijuana is still a drug that causes impairment.

What about CBD? Will CBD test positive for THC? Many types of CBD products, like oils, contain no THC whatsoever. Since drug tests are looking for THC specifically because of its psychoactive effects, people who use THC-free CBD products are in the clear.

However, some CBD products do carry very small amounts of THC. Still, you would need to use quite a large amount of CBD for a drug test to pick up on any THC, and even then, it would likely be a false positive result (meaning it came back clean).

For these reasons, using CBD shouldn't ever trigger a positive result on a drug test.

Maintaining a drug-free work environment is a huge responsibility, and we know it can start to feel overwhelming. We can help. We can help you with every aspect of maintaining a substance-free place of employment, including drug and alcohol testing, review and verification by a medical review officer (MRO), employee and designated employer representative (DER) training, and more.

If you're an employer looking for assistance managing a drug-free workplace or would like to order testing, contact US Drug Test Centers today. We offer a wide variety of drug and alcohol screening panels and can even customize one that better meets your needs. We have more than 20,000 collection sites across the country, so we're never more than a few miles away.

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