How Long Do Edibles Stay in Your System?
Reviewed By: Barbara Rexer, DSW, LCSW, LCADC, CCS, ICCS, DRCC
Written By: Sprout Editorial Team
Marijuana edibles affect every person differently, but most people can expect them to stay in their system for 3-12 days. Here’s what to know about edibles, including where they’re legal and how they might affect you.
Table Of Contents
- Recent News About Marijuana Edibles
- What Are Marijuana Edibles?
- How Does the Body Process Edibles?
- How Long Do Edibles Stay in Your System?
- Do Edibles Show Up on Drug Tests?
- Where Are Edibles Legal?
- Why Do People Say Edibles Aren’t Safe?
- Edibles stay in your system between 3-12 days
- By contrast, a single marijuana cigarette stays in your system about 3 days
- The exact length depends on how much you consume, and whether you’re an occasional or habitual user. It can take up to 30 days for marijuana to leave your system if you use regularly.
Have questions about addiction?
Call us at 866-278-6311 to speak with a recovery specialist.For many people, the idea of marijuana edibles is more appealing than smoking. Edibles produce a psychoactive effect without requiring the user to inhale smoke or vape into the lungs, which can make them feel safer. Additionally, many marijuana edibles are quite tasty — and in an increasing number of states they are also legal. However, edibles still carry health risks. If you or a loved one uses edibles, it’s important to understand how they work, including how they affect your mind and body.
What Are Marijuana Edibles?
Marijuana edibles are mainly food products that contain cannabinoids. However, the category can include other ingestible items, such as drinks, candies, or capsules. As edibles become legal, the variety of products has increased. For parents, it’s important to know that edibles can often look just like regular candy.
New legal marijuana can look just like candy.
How Does the Body Process Edibles?
When a person consumes an edible, it works its way through the digestive system. As it’s digested, cannabis makes its way to the liver. There, the body converts delta-9 THC to 11-hydroxy THC. When this occurs, the effect is more psychoactive than what is experienced by smoking THC.
It is important to note that the THC in edibles does take longer to affect many people in comparison to smoking or vaping. Digestion takes a little time, causing a delay of up to two hours between consumption and feeling high. In comparison, inhaling the THC allows it to reach the bloodstream and have an impact as quickly as within five minutes. For people who typically smoke, this lag can lead to dangerous overconsumption.
Some candy or chocolate edibles may work more quickly than other types, such as baked goods. This is because the product can “melt” in your mouth, allowing the THC to pass through and reach the bloodstream with greater ease.
It’s also important to note that the high can last significantly longer with edibles compared to smoking. When smoked, people usually feel the effects for several hours. With edibles, a person may be high as long as 12 hours.
How Long Do Edibles Stay in Your System?
How long THC from marijuana edibles stays in your system depends on a few factors. First, the half-life of cannabis varies, usually falling somewhere in the three- to 12-day window. The exact length is impacted by the quantity consumed, as well as whether the person is a casual or habitual user. Habitual use leads to tolerance, requiring ever-increasing amounts to feel the same high.
Because it takes longer to process and metabolize edibles, they stay in the body longer than inhaled THC. For those who smoke marijuana, THC levels decline as soon as the high wears off. When consumed, it can take about a day to see a reduction in THC levels.
Habitual users may have THC in their system from edibles for a month or longer. However, casual users may rid it from their system in as little as one to two weeks, depending on the amount of THC consumed. Read more about how long different drugs stay in your system.
Do Edibles Show Up on Drug Tests?
Yes, THC from edibles will show up on a drug test. Ingesting, rather than smoking THC doesn’t change the fact it is entering your system. In fact, because of the way the body processes edibles, a drug test may detect THC levels for a much longer period of time. Urine, hair, blood, saliva, and sweat tests can all detect ingested THC. Here’s a timeline for each kind of test:
- Blood: 3-4 hours
- Saliva: 24-72 hours
- Urine: 3-30 days
- Hair: Up to 90 days
Where Are Edibles Legal?
New states approve medical or decriminalized marijuana use every year. The following states and the District of Columbia have legalized at least medicinal use:
- Arizona (medical only)
- Arkansas (medical only)
- Florida (medical only)
- Louisiana (medical only)
- Montana (medical only)
- New Hampshire (medical only)
- New Jersey (medical only)
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Oklahoma (medical only)
- Pennsylvania (medical only)
- Rhode Island
- Utah (medical only)
- West Virginia (medical only)
Some states where marijuana is legal don’t have specific laws regarding edibles. Others maintain that edibles are illegal. In situations where the law is vague, it’s often best to err on the side of caution and assume they aren’t permitted.
Why Do People Say Edibles Aren’t Safe?
One of the biggest concerns about edibles is the psychoactive effect. There is a risk for cannabis-induced psychosis, which can cause hallucinations, confusion, and paranoia. Additionally, some experience panic attacks or hyperemesis syndrome after consuming edibles.
Moreover, for some older adults, cannabis in high doses could lead to a cardiac event or issue. Mainly, this is due to the impact of THC on the cardiovascular system. They could also be a greater risk for cognitive impairments, coordination issues, or negative drug interactions. In pregnant women, THC can reach the baby’s brain, potentially impacting its development.
It’s also hard to gauge the strength of an edible before it’s consumed. This leads some to misjudge the power of the dose, causing them to have a stronger effect than they wanted. Finally, THC is potentially addictive. A person can become addicted to edibles as easily as they can other forms of marijuana. Finally, edibles can be laced with dangerous drugs like K2/Spice.
Because of the addictive nature and potential risks associated with edibles, it’s important to seek treatment if marijuana use in any form has become a habit. Call us to learn more about options for marijuana addiction treatment, including flexible outpatient programs that allow you to incorporate treatment into your life while you reside at home.
Recent News About Marijuana Edibles
The legal landscape around marijuana is constantly evolving. Here are some of the latest developments:
Missouri Starts Selling Medical Marijuana
In October 2020, two dispensaries in St. Louis County became the first places to buy legal weed in Missouri. At the time of opening, only cannabis flower buds were allowed. The dispensaries, both owned by N’Bliss, expect to offer edibles and other products in the future, the News Leader reported. The state becomes the 40th to approve legal marijuana use in some fashion. Missouri also decriminalized recreational use.
Florida Legalizes Medical Marijuana Edibles
In August, Florida quietly legalized edibles for medicinal uses, a year after the legislature approved smoking marijuana for the same purposes. Edibles aren’t likely to hit shelves just yet. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, the state will issue variances licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers before products become available. According to the Department of Health, about 400,000 patients will become eligible.
Florida has added edibles in part to provide an option to patients to who prefer not to smoke or have difficulty swallowing pills. As Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried told the News Service of Florida, “Every single patient is different, as far as how their body reacts to this medicine…This is another alternative to so many patients who may need their medicine but need it in alternative forms.”
Montana Considers Legal Weed
Montana residents can already buy medical marijuana, but the tourism-reliant state is considering even more relaxed measures. An initiative on the 2020 ballot would make recreational marijuana legal throughout the state. Under the proposed law, the legal age would be set at 21.
Written By: Sprout Editorial Team
The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.
Marijuana Edibles: Fast Facts
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Know the risks involved with edibles. Learn how marijuana edibles work, how long edibles stay in your system and how they affect your mind and body.
Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test?
Not always, even though it’s legal. Here’s how to protect yourself.
The 26-year-old video producer from Reno, Nev., was shocked when a drug test he took as part of a job application came back positive for marijuana. The problem? He hadn’t used marijuana, he says. Instead, J.C., who prefers not to use his name, had taken CBD, or cannabidiol, from hemp to help with sleep and anxiety. And unlike THC, a related compound in cannabis plants, CBD can’t get you high.
“I thought I was in the clear,” J.C. says. “From everything that I had heard, CBD oil wasn’t supposed to show up on drug tests.”
CBD is going mainstream. Late last year Congress made CBD from hemp legal at the federal level. And it’s increasingly found on store shelves, now even sold in some CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens stores. An estimated 64 million people have tried CBD in the past 24 months, according to a January 2019 nationally representative survey by Consumer Reports of more than 4,000 adult Americans, using it for pain, insomnia, anxiety, and other health problems.
But as more people try it, one unexpected “side effect” could be failing an employer’s drug test, and even losing a job as a result.
Consider Bianca Thurston of Pennsylvania and Coni Hass of California. They are jointly suing Koi CBD, alleging that they failed drug tests because of the company’s CBD product; Thurston lost her job. Or Douglas Horn, a truck driver in New York who alleges that he lost his job after taking a CBD product made by Dixie (aka Dixie Elixirs).
Koi CBD told Consumer Reports in a statement about the lawsuit: “Koi prides itself on providing the highest-quality products while being a leader in the industry. We take claims regarding our products very seriously. We are investigating this matter and the allegations, which at this time, are unproven and unverified. We remain focused on continuing to carefully craft and offer a full array of beneficial cannabinoid products.”
Dixie Elixirs did not respond to a request for a comment.
So how can you fail a drug test after taking CBD? The urine test most commonly used doesn’t even look for CBD but instead a compound created by the body when it metabolizes THC, says Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, the largest administrator of drug tests in the U.S. “There isn’t going to be a laboratory analytical false positive confusing CBD with a THC metabolite.”
But Sample says that CBD products could have more THC than the label claims. CBD products from hemp sold in retail stores and online aren’t supposed contain more than 0.3 percent THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound in marijuana that can get you high.
It’s also possible that over time, the small amounts of THC allowed in CBD products could build up in the body to detectable levels.
And while New York City recently passed a law that, starting May 10, 2020, will bar many employers from testing prospective employees for marijuana, that is still the exception, even in states that allow marijuana for medical or adult recreational use. In fact, more than half of employers test job applicants for it, says Kate Kennedy, spokesperson for the Society for Human Resource Management, an industry group. That can help companies lower costs for disability insurance and workers’ compensation. Some people who work for the federal government or military or as pilots, bus drivers, train conductors, or truck drivers are also subject to drug testing.
So if you use CBD, especially if you are applying for a job or work in a sensitive field, you should be aware of the possible need to pass a drug test. Here’s more on how to do it, as well as advice on how to avoid that problem or deal with a positive drug test because of CBD.
CBD products often have more THC than claimed, research suggests. For example, a 2017 study in JAMA found that 18 of 84 CBD products, all purchased online, had THC levels possibly high enough to cause intoxication or impairment.
And those elevated levels might also be high enough to cause you not to pass a drug test.
That’s what Horn, the truck driver from New York, alleges happened to him after taking a product advertised to contain “zero THC.”
After losing his job because of the failed drug test, the lawsuit says Horn purchased a sample of the CBD product, had it tested, and found that, contrary to the claim, it did contain THC—enough, the lawsuit alleges, to cause a THC level in his urine of 29 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). That’s double the amount that typically triggers a positive result, says Sample at Quest Diagnostics.
Mislabeled CBD products are a growing problem for American workers, Sample believes. “It’s buyer beware,” he says. “There’s not always truth in labeling on the products.”
And he believes those high levels could be due in part to how THC levels are measured in hemp plants. While those plants are supposed to contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, that’s based on the dry weight of the plant. “But dry weight doesn’t necessarily equate to what’s in the finished product,” Sample says.
Plus, he says, in some cases that percentage is based on the weight of the whole plant, or on the weight of the buds or flowers, which tend to have more THC.
Adding to the confusion is that each state can determine how it samples and tests hemp plants for THC content, says Aline DeLucia, senior policy analyst for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. When sampling the hemp plant, “the closer you get to the flower, the higher the THC content. So some states collect the top 6 inches of the plant, while others do it differently,” DeLucia says. But “everybody is onboard that we need some kind of uniformity.”
And once CBD is turned into a “finished” product, such as an oil, a lotion, a tincture, a pill, or a vape liquid, few states dictate how those should be tested for THC, save for Oregon and soon Vermont. State agriculture departments, DeLucia says, don’t have jurisdiction over testing these products for safety.
Last, some states allow medical CBD products obtained through permitted channels to contain more than 0.3 percent THC. For example, the cutoff in Georgia and Virginia is 5 percent, Sample says, a level that is definitely high enough to cause impairment and a failed drug test.
Best bet: To increase the likelihood that a product doesn’t have more THC than claimed, look for a manufacturer that can provide a Certificate of Analysis, or COA, for its product. That document shows the results of a company’s testing for THC, CBD, and various contaminants. Though that testing is voluntary (except in Indiana and Utah) and the results aren’t confirmed by independent experts, for now it’s the best information available. If a store or website can’t provide you with a COA, look for another product. Read more about how CBD products are tested.
Small Amounts of THC Can Build Up
Many legitimate CBD products contain small amounts of THC. And when taken regularly over as little as four to six days, that THC can accumulate in the body, according to several studies.
That’s because THC is fat-soluble, says Norbert E. Kaminski, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University in East Lansing. So THC that isn’t immediately metabolized by the body will be stored in fat tissue. And “over time, THC and THC metabolites will be slowly released,” Kaminski says. As a result, it’s possible to test positive for THC and not pass a drug test, even after you’ve stopped taking the product.
Sample, at Quest Diagnostics, says that chronic, heavy users of marijuana could test positive even a month after they stop using it.
Best bet: Consider products that are claimed to be “CBD only” and have COAs showing that they contain zero THC. Also, you can try tracking your own THC levels with an at-home drug test, says Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, who has studied the medicinal use of CBD. If you test positive but need to be THC-free, consider taking a two- to three-week break from the product to clear THC from your system, he says.
What to Do If You Failed a Drug Test
Talk with your employer. That’s what worked for J.C., in Nevada, after he tested positive for marijuana use. Armed with documentation from his doctor that he was taking CBD to treat anxiety and insomnia, he met with company co-founder Matt Ross, chief operating officer of the Slumber Yard—a website that tracks user experiences with buying and using mattresses—and explained why he was taking it. He even took the bottle in for his employer to see.
“I wasn’t familiar with CBD at the time,” Ross says. But he and his partner appreciated that J.C. addressed the situation. “He was really talented as a video editor, and we felt comfortable enough to get past it.”
If that doesn’t work, try your company’s HR department. If your employer resists, you may be able to seek protection through the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability laws. Those laws allows people with documented needs to get exceptions, or “reasonable accommodations,” to account for their medical situation. While the ADA does not apply to marijuana—because it remains illegal on the federal level, even for medical use—it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department, says James Reidy, an attorney at Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green who focuses on drug policy issues with employers. That’s because CBD from hemp is now legal on a federal level.
If you have any documentation from a medical provider, that can help, too. And you may have more luck if you live in Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia. Those states have passed laws providing some protection for people who use medical marijuana, potentially including CBD, Reidy says.
Other states, such as likeCalifornia, Montana, Oregon, and Washington have laws to assure that companies located in those states do not have to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people who use medical marijuana, and leave it up to each employer to decide, Reidy says. In those states, though, it’s still worth asking your company’s HR department about it if you’ve failed a drug test for marijuana after taking CBD.
Ask for a retest. If you’ve stopped taking CBD for a few weeks or longer, or took CBD infrequently, and still test positive for marijuana, consider asking for a retest. Though there are safeguards in place to prevent errors, Sample says, in rare cases they do happen.
In addition, some companies might set the threshold for THC very low to catch as many people as possible, Earleywine says. But doing so means the test can generate “some false positives, people who look as if they’ve used THC when they haven’t.”
Stop or skip using CBD products if faced with an upcoming drug test. That’s the only way to ensure that your CBD won’t trigger a positive test result for marijuana. And that includes stopping use of topical CBD lotions, oils, and cosmetic products, says Kaminski at Michigan State University. And it’s best to stop two to three weeks before the test, he adds. That should allow for enough time for any THC and THC metabolites to clear out of your system.
If you have to pass a drug test, you might want to skip taking CBD. Here’s why and how to protect yourself, with details from Consumer Reports on whether you can take CBD and pass a drug test.