Marijuana Testing FAQ

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Published on Nov 30th, 2017


The prevalence of cannabis use is hardly a surprise, especially after recent mandates to marijuana legislation.

While the drug is not inherently lethal, marijuana use can seriously impact workplace performance. For this reason, marijuana drug tests are a staple pre-employment screening tool.

Here are some of the most burning questions related to marijuana abuse.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana (THC) is a naturally occurring plant grown and harvested in humid geographical regions. Marijuana buds, which contain the plant’s psychoactive THC and CBD compounds, are dull green or brown in color.

Marijuana can be administered in many forms:

  • Smoking, with cigarette paper or dried plant leaves
  • Ingesting “edibles”, or foods containing concentrated cannabis oil
  • Vaporization, which filters THC and CBD compounds from smoke and carcinogens

Marijuana has been one of the most controversial drugs in the past few decades. To prevent illicit marijuana distribution, many countries are moving to legalize the drug, including the United States. Marijuana legalization has clinical implications, as the drug is touted as a remedy for chronic pain and poor appetite in patients who are terminally ill. There are ways to use marijuana aside from seeking intoxication. Components of the marijuana plant can be recycled for use in many industries e.g. hemp leaves for cosmetic products, hemp seeds for nutrition, etc.

What are the long-term effects of marijuana use?

Prolonged use of marijuana can negatively impact every aspect of a user’s life.

Long-term side effects of marijuana include:

  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Heart Issues and Palpitations
  • Bronchitis and Lung Irritation

In addition, long-term marijuana use can impair the quality of social interaction and personal responsibility:

  • Severed Relationships
  • Decreased Motivation
  • Inability to Commit to Career Path

When quitting marijuana, will there be accompanying marijuana withdrawal symptoms?

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person. If marijuana withdrawal symptoms do occur, they can be overcome within a few days or weeks.

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may not be limited to:

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Strong Cravings for Marijuana
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
  • Low Appetite

Studies have yet to conclude if marijuana leads to addiction symptoms. Fortunately, it is arguably easier quitting marijuana compared to quitting other addictive substances.

Can you overdose on marijuana?

Although there are no reported cases of marijuana overdose, the methods by which the drug is administered can lead to illnesses which cause death. Some marijuana related deaths arise due to cardiac and respiratory ailments from inhaling combustible rolling paper. Adulterated or “laced” marijuana poses more risk, as the user may unknowingly expose themselves to lethal substances.

Is marijuana bad for you?

Despite the purported health benefits of marijuana, side effects of the drug can be detrimental, as experience varies from user to user. Registered physicians may prescribe marijuana for terminally ill patients with chronic pain symptoms. However, people with genetic precursors for addiction, cardiac or respiratory disorders should avoid marijuana use. Emerging science suggests young people 21 and under should not experiment with marijuana because their brains are not fully matured. Chronic marijuana use prior to full cognitive development may compromise reasoning skills and memory function into adulthood.

How long does a mouth swab drug test trace the use of marijuana?

Marijuana saliva test detection time can vary from donor to donor. Different variables like fluid intake, metabolism, age, body composition and overall health can alter the range of detection from 6 hours to 3 days post abuse. Other factors to consider are the amount and concentration of used marijuana. Marijuana is usually detectable in saliva samples 6-24 hours after use. Despite variability in drug test detection time, a saliva marijuana test is highly accurate.

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

Many factors affect how long marijuana will stay in the body:

  • Overall health: deteriorating health creates an extended detection window
  • Metabolism: marijuana occupies fat cells, so bodies with high fat percentages metabolize THC at a slowed rate
  • Frequency of use: quantity of marijuana used within a given timeframe will affect the detection period; infrequent use may shorten the detection window
  • Potency: THC and CBD concentrations will affect marijuana detection time; low concentrations will result in a shortened detection timeframe

Depending on the selected marijuana drug test, marijuana is detectable in a person’s system hours, days, or months after use. There are many variables determining how long marijuana will stay in your system, but this table below offers a simple guideline.

SUBSTANCE SALIVA URINE HAIR MARIJUANA (light use) 6-12 hours 2-4 days up to 90 days MARIJUANA (heavy use) 1-2 days 5-7 days up to 90 days

How long does marijuana stay in your urine?

Marijuana is usually detectable in urine samples up to 72 hours after the substance is smoked or ingested. However, several factors can affect marijuana urine test detection time, including health, metabolism and drug concentration. Marijuana urine tests should contain specimen validity strips to prevent the risk of urine sample adulteration when performing a drug test for marijuana use.

How does marijuana affect sperm? Are there any risks of smoking marijuana while pregnant?

When it comes to fertility, marijuana might affect the cycle of reproduction for both men and women. Exposure to marijuana smoke not only decreases the volume of sperm produced. Certain compounds in marijuana can damage sperm quality and makes prospective offspring more susceptible to genetic mutations. Frequent marijuana use can also lead to lower testosterone levels in men and underdeveloped egg maturation, creating stress for couples wishing to conceive.

Can cross-reactive substances like over the counter medication yield a drug test false positive for marijuana?

Substances containing ibuprofen, e.g. Advil and Motrin, may trigger false positives for marijuana on a drug test. However, cross-reactivity is unlikely because high doses of Ibuprofen must be present in one’s body to yield a marijuana false positive result. Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) confirmation testing is used to verify preliminary drug screen results. This method of confirmation serves to verify initial drug test findings. Saliva drug testing, urine drug testing and hair follicle drug testing each offer reliable results through GC/MS confirmation. Results from a GC/MS test are interpreted by a certified Medical Review Officer to survey and approve legitimate drug use.

Where is marijuana legal?

Medical marijuana use is legal in 43 United States, while recreational marijuana use is permitted in 8 United States. These numbers continue to grow as new applications of marijuana emerge. However, despite statewide legislation in favor of United States marijuana legalization, possession of marijuana remains a federal offense.

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