How Long Does Cannabis Stay In Your System?

By Melissa Sherrard

Many people consume marijuana for either recreational purposes or medicinal purposes. According to the Scientific Reports journal, it is considered as the safest drug, being 114 less deadly than alcohol. Even if the positive impacts of marijuana are hailed, users have to take note of certain negative impacts that can arise, especially if taken in great dosage and in the case of existing diseases.
Once marijuana is smoked, it is quickly absorbed into the blood stream. There is consequently an almost immediate effect on the brain sense of perception and heart rate. If it is eaten or drunk, it takes a little longer for the effects to be felt.

In January 2017, the National Academics of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published a comprehensive review on how cannabis interacts with the human body. Cannabis has some short-term and long-term effects depending, of course, on how much and how often it is being consumed.

How does the human endocannabinoid system work?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) refers to a group of cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. It is involved in a range of physiological processes such as regulation of appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory and even the immune system functions by serving an autoprotective role. The ECS also plays a great role in voluntary exercise and is considered to be related to the runner’s high, aspects of motivation and reward. When marijuana is consumed, it acts on the ECS.

How long does weed or marijuana stay in your body?
Surprisingly enough, cannabis stays in your body for a rather long time. And for the chronic consumers, it can stay in their organism for weeks. The simple reason is that most cannabinoids are fat soluble compounds and are easily stored in fat. As such, compared to other recreational drugs, they have a long elimination half-life.

So, testing positive does not necessarily means being high at the moment the test is being carried out. Defining an exact time frame is hard because every person’s body processes the drug differently and testing technologies differ and produce inconsistent results. Nevertheless, data gathered from the last thirty years can provide an estimate on how long weed stays in the body.

Logically, the more you smoke weed, the longer it will take your body to eliminate it. Most estimates suggest that on the average, it takes up to three days for your system to get rid of cannabis if you smoked an occasional joint.

According to the Drug Court research in 2005, “scientific literature indicates that it is uncommon for occasional marijuana smokers to test positive for cannabinoids in urine for longer than seven days using standard cutoff concentrations.”

Such is not the case for usual smokers. The cannabinoids can stay in their body even for more than one month. Certain studies have even shown that a test can be positive even 77 days after stopping cannabis, regarding chronic consumers.

How long does THC stay in your system?
THC is a cannabinoid which has demarcated itself from hundred other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant because of its psychoactive attributes. It mimics the human endocannabinoid compounds called anandamide which is a naturally occurring neurotransmitting compound found in mammals, birds, reptiles as well as fish. The human brain possesses cannabinoid receptors that are concentrated in certain areas and once THC attaches to these receptors and activates them, a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, coordination, concentration as well as time and sensory perception are affected.

THC stimulates the brain to release dopamine, thus triggering euphoria. Information processed in the hippocampus- which is responsible for forming new memories- is also altered. THC induces hallucinations and causes delusions too. Its effect can last up to two hours while psychomotor impairment may last much longer after the perceived high has stopped.

Extracted, THC is synthesized, such as in the case for dronabinol, an FDA-approved drug. It is used to prevent vomiting associated with cancer treatments as well as to boost appetite in patients with AIDS.

How long does CBD stay in your system?
CBD is one of the 113 active cannabinoids identified in the cannabis plant. It is found in high concentration, like THC, and is hence highly studied. Unlike THC, CBD is not considered as a psychoactive cannabinoid even if it may seem to have some psychoactive effects.

It “high” effective is of sedative nature that provides relief most suffering people look for in medicine. CBD is mostly renowned for its medicinal uses such as reduction of inflammation and nausea, managing diabetes, schizophrenia, epilepsy, cardiovascular disease, rheumatic arthritis amongst others. It is thought that CBD negates some of the adverse effects of THC.

Passing a drug test for cannabis
Passing a drug test for cannabis for recreational or medical use varies from country to country. In most countries, its possession and consumption are illegal while certain countries have proceeded with its decriminalization. In the United States, smoking cannabis is allowed in some 26 states even if the majority only allows it for medicinal purposes. It remains forbidden by the federal law, all the same.

Nonetheless, even if cannabis is legal in certain states, an employer has the right to ask his staff to undergo drug testing. State laws allow drug testing when:

Certain states have specific rules regarding the conduct of the drug test. For example, in Rhode Island and Florida, an employee is entitled to have a copy of his results and has the right to challenge a positive result by giving explanations or having the sample tested again.

An employer has the right to fire staff for smoking marijuana
Employers generally have recourse to third-party drug testing laboratories. Small companies may instead choose to use test kits and self-administer the test. Simply because weed is legal in some states does not mean that an employer cannot fire his staff or decide not to hire a candidate for a job for having consumed it. The bottom line is that an employee cannot go to work under the influence of cannabis and most workplaces have their own conduct and drug policies. Most states have expressed that they do not want to interfere with the ability of an employer to enforce zero drug policies.

Many companies conduct random screening or as a condition of employment. An employee can consume it during the weekend and still test positive at work the next week, even when he is no longer impaired.

Certain jobs require employees to be clean from marijuana
The federal government itself imposes drug testing for certain jobs like truck drivers or other positions in the transportation sector. As marijuana may impair driving or similar tasks even three hours after consumption, these regulations apply for security reasons. As per reports of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is the second-most common psychoactive substance found in drivers, after alcohol. People consuming medical marijuana are equally instructed not to drive.

Certain court cases where employees have been fired after failing the cannabis drug test at work have proven that the Court also sides with the employer as the federal law has not made cannabis consumption legal.

Certain states protect staff taking medical marijuana
In certain states like Arizona, New York or Maine, there are specific laws that prevent employers from firing staff using medical marijuana off duty. Yet, employees who consume medical marijuana because of some form of disability are not protected by the law. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act- which is a federal law- does not impose that employers accommodate illegal drug use, and under the federal law, marijuana consumption remains illegal.

Testing technologies that are currently used for detection of cannabis

Urine testing
Urine testing is the most common method for detecting marijuana consumption. It can be detected up to five days after consumption in infrequent users while it can be detected up to 15 days after consumption in heavy users or those with a high percentage of body fat. The principal metabolite excreted in the urine is 11-nor-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (delta9-THC-COOH). When the concentration of marijuana in urine exceeds 50 ng/mL, most THC drug tests yield a positive result.

Blood testing
In blood samples, cannabis can be detected for about 12 to 24 hours after consumption, with regards to infrequent users. The drug can be found in blood samples of frequent users for up to seven days. Blood tests are not so common but are usually done in investigations of accidents and injuries.

Saliva testing
Cannabis can be detected by saliva testing. The cut off level is usually 50 ng/mL if done on site instantly. However, the detection level is very low if not done right away. It is considered as a reasonable alternative to other drug testing methods.

Hair testing
Cannabis is detectable with hair tests. The most recent 1.5 inches of growth is used, providing a detection period extending to some 90 days. The shorter the hair sample, the shorter the detection period. Body hair distorts the detection timeframe as it grows slower than head hair.

Breath testing
Breath testing technology for detecting cannabis is still being developed. Certain companies are claiming to have developed the perfect tool. However, further testing needs to be carried out but results are promising. If approved, breath testing equipment will become a key tool in traffic law enforcement.

Myths surrounding detoxification
There are several myths regarding cleansing the metabolism after consumption of marijuana. Those having to pass drug tests may have recourse to certain “remedies” or acts that are in reality, highly risky and dangerous, as well as detectable by testing laboratories. And some of these remedies do not even work.

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