The Short Answer: Very Unlikely
The Long Answer: It is very unlikely that using CBD will give you a false positive in a routine drug test. That is, as long as you’re investing in high-quality, lab-tested CBD products.
The CBD market is still in its relative infancy, with cutting-edge research being conducted as we speak. Because of this skyrocketing popularity, there tends to be very little market regulation. If you browse high-traffic sites, like Amazon for instance, it’s very noticeable. In a simple search, you can find CBD products boasting anywhere between 25mg to 2,000,000mg of CBD per serving (when a generally accepted recreational dose ranges from 20–100mg and 1500mg is considered a medically intense dose).
When these low-quality brands distort reality through mislabeling, it’s not too far a leap of logic to assume that their “CBD” products could contain any number of other compounds — including pesticides and harmful heavy metals. These products can be at best ineffectual and at worst actively dangerous, which is why investing in high-quality, lab-tested CBD brands is imperative. By investing in quality, you invest not only in safe, effective products, but in the assurance that you have a minuscule chance of seeing false-positive drug screening results.
How does a drug test work?
A Drug Screening is a series targeted chemical test which detect the presence of specific substances within the body. Unless you are a professional athlete or on parole, you are most likely to encounter drug tests in the workplace whether at random or as a provision before being hired. The most common employer-ordered drug screening is a 5-panel urine test, which screens for amphetamines, THC, cocaine, opioids, and PCP. These first-round tests, called immunoassays, use antibodies to detect substances. They are considered presumptive tests, meaning they detect only the presence of drugs, not specific concentrations. Because of their low cost and low specificity, immunoassays can be subject to false positives (we’ve all heard of the poppy-seed bagel / opium false positive).
Preliminary testing shows that pure CBD does not trigger false-positives in THC-specific drug panels. Researchers at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center in Salt Lake City “spiked” urine samples with pure forms of four non-THC cannabinoids — CBD (cannabidiol), CBN (cannabinol), Cannabichromene, and Cannabigerol — and tested the samples using two common screening tests for THC. Out of these four cannabinoids, only CBN triggered a false positive in one of the two tests. CBN is a mildly psychoactive derivative of THC created through environmentally motivated degradation. This false positive was likely due to CBN’s chemical similarity to THC.
A failed drug screening is cause for higher-grade laboratory testing, such as gas chromatography / mass spectrometry — but not all employers conduct due process, and appeals may be difficult. If your job involves operating heavy machinery like forklifts or trucks, a false positive immunoassay could cause issues. Pay attention to your current employers’ policies and consult your physician before taking CBD or any cannabinoid product — having a doctor’s note can help clarify your situation in the event of a false positive.
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