When consuming cannabis, the immediate effects are typically felt for only a handful of hours, but this doesn’t mean your body is THC-free shortly thereafter. Drug testing shows that days or even weeks later, THC can still be detected in your urine or hair. And it's no shocker that one of the highest cannabis-related online search phrases is: how long does marijuana stay in your system?
Literally, tens of thousands of people search that exact question on a monthly basis. No doubt, many of those asking are wondering if they might be able to pass an upcoming drug screen.
The most typical answer? 30 days after consuming a THC product.
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The amount of time THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is measurable in your body is called the detection window, and the amount of time that window stays open depends on many different factors. So, what are those determining factors in answering the question, "how long does marijuana stay in your system?"
Types of possible drug tests
THC can be detected in blood, saliva, sweat, your breath, hair and of course urine, which is the most frequently tested body matter. When you’re subject to a blood test and haven’t consumed cannabis for the last few days, you won’t have to worry, because it’s very likely the THC levels have dropped enough to give a negative result.
Even when you get a negative result on a blood test, other methods might be used to determine if you recently consumed cannabis. A hair test, for instance, appears to have the longest detection window. To understand why, you have to understand how your body stores THC.
When THC enters the body, metabolites (which are byproducts of cannabinoids) are stored in your fat reserves. It can take quite some time for your body to get rid of all traces of cannabis usage. The metabolite most tests hunt for — including urine and hair tests — is THC-COOH. When this metabolite is found in your hair, this doesn’t necessarily mean you smoked very recently, since it’s detectable for up to 90 days. This means that you might still test positive, even though the effects of the cannabis have worn off weeks or even months before and you feel completely clean.
Urine tests also screen for the above mentioned metabolite. In most cases, the cutoff is 50 ng/mL. This means that if there’s more than 50ng of THC-COOH per mL, the test will be positive. Depending on the company that tests you, the cutoff can be higher or lower. The lower the cutoff, the longer you will test positive after ceasing to consume cannabis.
Other factors influencing the "how long does marijuana stay in your system" detection window
Besides the type of test, other factors can shorten or lengthen the detection window. It varies between someone who is a regular user, and someone who only smoked once. It appears that if you only smoked once, it’s plausible you’ll test negative on a urine test after only a few days. This period is a bit longer for people who smoke often.
As we’ve noted in other articles on The Sugar Leaf, the effects of cannabis vary from person to person. The same goes for the amount of time THC stays in one’s body. This makes it impossible to tell precisely how long you will test positive after consuming cannabis.
Several studies have been completed regarding the amount of time THC is detectable in urine. One of these studies dates back to the 1980s. During this study, chronic users stopped smoking for four weeks in order to see how long it took for their bodies to eliminate the THC. Within 25 days, all urine tests came back negative, although most participants had negative test results before that. This proves that it takes a different amount of time for everyone to get his or her fist negative. But beware, it doesn’t prove that you will test negative after 25 days also, because your body is unique.
When you don’t drink enough water, your urine will be more concentrated, which means that there will me more THC-COOH is your sample. A test might give a false positive in this case. It’s important to always hydrate enough, but be careful, because if you drink too much before a test your sample is going to be too diluted, and the test might be rejected.
What about CBD?
Urine tests are designed to detect THC metabolites, not CBD. But if your CBD-infused product also contains a small amount of THC, you could test positive, even though you didn’t feel the effects of the cannabinoid.
As you can see, there's no easy answer to the question, "how long does marijuana stay in your system?" So to be safe, if you have a screening coming up, play it safe and push the pause button on your cannabis consumption.
A painful proposition, we agree.