There is certainly a lot of misinformation floating around about CBD, its effects, purported benefits, and whether or not it can cause someone to fail a drug test. Because of the federal prohibition on marijuana and individual state’s varying classifications, failing a drug test is still a legitimate concern for many CBD users. While most drug tests specifically test for THC, the psychoactive and perhaps most famous cannabinoid, it is still possible to fail a drug test using CBD-only THC-free products.
Within the offerings of CBD products, customers will often encounter products made using either a crystalline isolate or a full-spectrum oil. While both have their proponents and detractors, the distinction between the two is simple: An isolate is pure CBD in crystalline form, without any other cannabinoids. Quality isolate should be 99%+ CBD by weight. Lately, terpsolate has become very popular, which is CBD isolate combined with cannabis terpenes. A full-spectrum CBD oil contains all of the available phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant, including a small amount of THC. While most schools of thought subscribed to the idea that isolate based products would not result in a positive (failed) drug test, recent studies have shown that this is not the case.
A recently published medical journal has asserted that identical retention times and mass spectra for THC and CBD were found following derivatization with trifluoroacetic anhydride (TFAA). This bears enormous consequences for our understanding of CBD/THC false-positives. As a commonly used derivatizing reagent in drug tests, TFAA will result in false-positives and the inability to distinguish between the two distinct cannabinoids: CBD and THC. This complications is a result of the conversion of CBD to THC under acidic conditions, which is amply provided by the TFAA derivatizing reagent. These recent reports demonstrate the unsuitability of TFAA for use in the detection of THC and CBD.
While it is important to understand the root cause of these false-positives, it still does not remedy the potential implications a failed drug test can have on one’s personal and professional life. When taking a CBD product, whether it is a full-spectrum product or produced using an isolate, it is best to exercise caution if drug tests are a concern. As long as TFAA is a commonly used derivatizing agent in drug tests, false-positives will continue to plague law-abiding CBD users.