If you’re trying to get a job or you’ve recently been involved in a work-related incident, you might be subject to a marijuana drug screen. Frequent or even occasional weed smoking can show up in a variety of different drug tests, and it’s essential to understand this, so you aren’t caught off-guard.
There isn’t an exact answer because there are so many variables that come into play when we ask ourselves, “how long does marijuana stay in your system?” Marijuana can be detected in your system even if you’ve only smoked one time. It depends, however, on the amount of marijuana you’ve used and how long it’s been since you’ve used it.
Luckily, there are many ways to tell if you’ll show positive on the drug test, so let’s break everything down to see if you’re at risk.
What Causes a Failed Drug Test?
First, we have to understand what causes a failed drug test and why it’s a problem. We’re focusing entirely on a marijuana drug screening in this article. The test consists of two parts that look for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana that causes the feeling of “being high.” There are also different components called metabolites that show in urine. The test is accurate, and you’ll most likely perform it in a medical lab or outpatient facility.
There are other tests like blood, saliva, and hair tests that are less commonly used, but we’ll touch on them later. Each test is checking for the same active ingredients, but they all have different timelines.
How Much Marijuana Will Cause a Failed Drug Test?
A positive on the test means recent marijuana use, and it will show positive for THC if the sample has more than 50 nanograms in a milliliter. Even if THC shows in the test, as long as it is below this level, the individual will not fail the test.
The tests will not show any specifics about how long it has been or how much was used. It’s a simple pass or fail test based on the concentration of THC in the method used.
This factor means that whether you pass or fail depends a lot on the amount of marijuana smoked leading up to the test. If the person smoked one time, three days before the test, he or she would have a high likelihood of passing. On the other hand, someone who smoked every day for a week and then stopped for a week before the test will have a higher likelihood of failing the test, due to the higher concentration of marijuana in his or her body.
The same applies to someone who smokes a high amount of marijuana a few days before the test. Even if you only smoke for one day, there is still a chance that you will fail the test if you smoke a lot.
Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to any of these questions. They are all speculations depending on a wide variety of health and biological factors.
Factors that Make Marijuana Stick Around Longer
Here are some of the most common reasons why marijuana may remain in the system longer across multiple patients:
The first reason is the method of testing. For government jobs or careers where “being at your best” is essential, they may elect for a hair follicle test. This test can detect marijuana much further back than a urine test, so it’s important to understand the differences.
Amount of THC
Someone who smokes five times a day, seven days a week will have to quit smoking much sooner than someone who smokes once in a while. Frequent smoking will cause THC to stick around in your system for as long as a month after you quit. For a hair follicle test, marijuana can show from as long as three months ago.
Another factor is the concentration of THC in the marijuana smoked. With advancements in marijuana technology and testing, the concentration of THC is dramatically higher to induce a stronger high, and as a result, the THC in the herb stays in your system for longer.
A significant factor in determining how fast marijuana will release from the system is the weight and health of the user. Someone with a lot of body fat will have a much harder time getting it out of their system because THC stores in fat. People with higher BMIs and body fat concentrations will metabolize marijuana slower, which will require a longer buffer to get it out of their system.
If the individual is overweight or obese, they should add an extra week to the average time to play it safe when trying to pass a drug test.
Drinking a lot of water will help pass the THC through your system, and dehydration will cause it to stick around longer. While the effects of this factor may be minimal, it is worth keeping in mind. Be sure not to overdrink water leading up to the test because urine tests can come up as diluted. If your urine is diluted, you’ll have to retake the test.
If you exercise regularly, you generally have a higher metabolism than someone who doesn’t. Exercising helps metabolize marijuana and get it out of your system faster. If you look at marijuana and your system you’ll realize that as you burn fat, you’re also burning THC. Exercise and metabolism are not directly correlated, and some people may have a fast metabolism even though they don’t exercise. It all depends on the individual.
Urine Drug Test for Weed
First, we’ll look at the most common test, which is a urine test. For this, you’ll have to urinate in a cup with test strips on the side that will detect for commonly used drugs including marijuana. Here’s a general breakdown of marijuana detection in urine:
Daily Smoker - Up to 15 days
3-4 Times per week - 7-10 days
1-2 Times per week - 3 days
Of course, these are rough estimates and will depend on all the factors we’ve already mentioned. If you smoke 1-2 times per week, but you’ve been smoking that way for a year, it will take much longer than three days to get THC out of your system. Those apply if you smoked a few times, but you don’t do it regularly. If you smoke every week, you should expect marijuana to stick around in your system for at least two weeks.
Blood Drug Test for Weed
A blood test is considered easier to pass than a urine test because it can detect the presence of THC faster. The upside is that it can’t go back as far as a urine test. Generally, a blood test may take place at the site of an accident to prove foul play by one party. In some cases, where the use of marijuana is extremely heavy, THC might be detectable in the blood as far back as 25 days.
Immediately after smoking, THC gets distributed through the blood and body tissues, and the metabolites of marijuana remain in the blood for several days after. For this reason, blood tests are highly effective for criminal justice purposes where criminals are tested immediately for drugs in their system.
It’s difficult to provide a timeline. For frequent or chronic use of marijuana, it can remain in the blood for as long as 25 days. For occasional use, it can get detected as far back as ten days. For one time use, it should be out of the blood in no longer than two days.
Saliva Drug Test for Weed
A slightly different way to get drug tested for marijuana is through your saliva. A saliva test is done roadside in the event of a drug-related accident. Law enforcement may take a swab of the suspect to determine if drugs were involved in the accident. For this situation, marijuana can get detected for as long as one month or as low as three days.
A person will never need to take a saliva test in preparation for a job because these are only conducted in emergency medical situations. Overall, saliva has a wide range of time frames in which marijuana can show up.
Hair Drug Test for Weed
The hair follicle test is the most challenging marijuana drug test to pass. These can detect for as far back as 90 days. Marijuana is in the hair follicles due to tiny blood vessels resting at the top of the scalp. For this reason, marijuana is detectable for a long time as long as the person still has hair.
The person conducting the test will look at the 1.5 inch portion of the hair that is closest to the scalp to determine when the last time the user has smoked marijuana. This will typically provide proof of marijuana usage for 90 days or longer.
This test is the most popular for jobs that require strict guidelines such as law enforcement, government, military, or driving.
How to Get Marijuana Out of Your System Faster
While marijuana legalization is spreading across the entire country, there are still many jobs that will require you to take a drug test. Surprise tests are also popular in companies that require strict drug adherence due to safety and regulations.
There are a few ways to help yourself get marijuana out of your system faster in time for a drug test. Here they are:
The obvious answer is to stop within enough time. Refer to the guidelines we provided above depending on the type of test you’ll have to take. For most jobs, it will be a urine test, and for some, you’ll have to take a hair test.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time, and that you don’t start smoking again until the results of the test are in. You need to remove as much of the metabolites from your system so you can fall below that 50 nanogram threshold.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water leading up to the test and the day of will help with a urine screening. You want to dilute your urine enough to keep below that 50 nanogram mark, but don’t overdo it. While this sounds like an easy solution, it doesn’t work if you provide a diluted sample. Diluting your urine will lead to suspicion, and you’ll have to take another test. Make sure to drink plenty of water during your off period when you are no longer smoking but be smart about it.
There are many detox drinks on the market that claim to mask or expel the THC in your system; however, these can be tricky. There are specifics to when you have to drink them, how to drink them, and how much to drink if you’re masking the THC. If you’re smoking right up to your test and planning to cover it up with a detox drink, be careful. These drinks are also expensive, so don’t waste your money on something that doesn’t work.
Zinc causes false positives with THC drug tests. It can mask the actual THC detection in urine tests if you take it during the 12 hours leading up to the test. You want to be extra careful when taking Zinc because it can cause Zinc poisoning if you take too much.
Trying to pass a drug test when you’re a regular marijuana smoker is difficult and scary. The best way to pass is to stop smoking for that certain time period so that you don’t have to worry about it. Use the information we provide above to ensure you have plenty of time to detox leading up to your next drug test.
Related: The Legality Of Growing Weed