Will I fail a drug test if I use cannabis lotion, spa products, or other cannabis topicals, even if I am not smoking, vaping, eating, or otherwise ingesting cannabinoids like THC?
I would never tell anyone that they will have a clean drug test after using marijuana salves or any cannabinoid-rich topical cannabis preparations in my recipe repertoire or in my book. The Cannabis Spa at Home, I advise makers and users of my recipes to always assume that they will fail a drug test. I give this advice for a variety of reasons, some of which I will outline in a moment.
I am asked this question more than any other question. And the answer I always give is quite controversial–although I am baffled as to why my answer is so controversial and seems to stir up a lot of emotion in people. One hypothesis about why this is has to do with the vast number of answers to this question on other websites that contradict my answer. The most common answer you will find online to this question is, “No, you’re safe. You won’t fail a drug test using cannabis lotion.” It’s a comfortable answer that people may want to hear when they are suffering from excruciating pain, but are limited in their choices due to some form of mandatory drug testing.
I feel that the position I take on this issue is both the logical and responsible position. I believe that my position is based in the facts that surround the way that people use topical products. And it’s the responsible position that empathizes with the reality of difficult situations, such as a military career, flying planes, or battling CPS authorities. You won’t fail a drug test just reading my blog or books–but if you make and use the recipes infused with cannabinoids, all bets are off. And it’s the same position I have on any cannabinoid-infused topical application, whether it’s mine or not.
Externally-applied cannabinoids in the form of lotions, salves, baths or creams have a whole set of variables that you don’t get with edibles, vaporizing or smoking. Just because most external-use cannabis products do not cause any psychoactive effect or intoxication when you use them–this is not the same as testing clean on a drug test. People that want to use external-use cannabis products need to understand this important distinction.
When you are using an authentic, cannabinoid-rich cannabis spa preparation, whether it be a salve, ointment or lotion, you apply it to your skin. But what if you eat an apple, without washing your hands, with the same hand you used to apply that cannabinoid-rich lotion? Or you lick your fingers? And think about this: How many times a day do humans unconsciously touch their mucus membranes like their mouth and eyes? This is another way for cannabinoids to get into your bloodstream in high enough amounts to fail a drug test: If you apply generous amounts of cannabinoid-rich salve and then get into a warm bath to soak–a pain-relieving technique I describe in my book–there’s a really good chance that your mucus membranes are going to come in contact with cannabinoids, including THC! There are just so many ways that a topical product can enter your bloodstream in significant amounts apart from any transdermal absorption (which is another pathway into your bloodstream if the external product you are using has penetration enhancers!). And these variables are why you should always assume that you are going to test positive on a drug test, even if you didn’t feel high or intoxicated.
Based on the endless number of variables involved in the way people use topical products, it’s not possible for even a commercial producer of external-use cannabis-infused products which are authentic and cannabinoid-rich to definitively say that their products will never return a positive drug test result. In order to make this claim they would need to test every possible way that someone is going to use this product–this is impossible to do. The socially responsible position is to tell consumers the amount of cannabinoids in the product via lab results, and that these cannabinoids are frequently tested for on standard drug tests.
The ‘Novelty” Problem
I also think it’s confusing for the public, in general, when they hear cannabis salve and topical brands claim that their product will not cause a positive drug test. My position on this is that if they are so sure of that, it must be because they are selling what I call “novelties,” which contain a scant amount of cannabinoids, if any, such as THC. It’s the responsibility of the producers of cannabis novelty items which contain little or no cannabinoid content to disclose this fact to the consumer–rather than simply tell them that they will not fail a drug test–which may or may not be true if the product contains even scant amounts of THC that somehow make it into the bloodstream.
Authentic cannabis lotions, salves and other spa preparations used in legal states typically contain a generous amount of cannabinoids–unless they are novelty products. These products are almost always an artifact of marketing rather than a usable spa preparation. Some topical products sold in dispensaries are there purely for their novelty appeal–and may be made from less desirable parts of the cannabis plant, or simply have no cannabinoid infusion at all. Over the years I’ve fielded a lot of email expressing disappointment in regards to cannabis salves and topical products purchased in dispensaries. I believe this is due to the large amount of novelty inventory you will find at legal cannabis dispensaries as even today topical products are more of an afterthought than a well-managed line of inventory.
I understand the excitement — and concern — that many people have about trying cannabis salves and other spa preparations! The legalization of hemp and cannabis is a positive development in our culture! However, if drug tests are something that you have to deal with in your life at this time, you may want to avoid all cannabis products, including hemp, just to be on the safe side.