An Overview of the Marijuana Drug Test

Drug testing is provided for a variety of drugs but marijuana is the most common.  Marijuana is one of the drug federally mandated for required Department of Transportation (DOT) drug testing programs. Lab based drug testing for marijuana is recommended. Testing detects the metabolite THC. 

Marijuana is abused around the world and extensively in the United States. Since it is legal in some places, some people think it is safe. Remember selling, possession or using marijuana is still illegal under Federal law. Drug testing for marijuana or THC is a topic that comes up just about every day in our office. There are many reasons why an individual or an employer might need a marijuana drug test. This page will explore marijuana; what it is, what are the effects of marijuana, and all about drug testing process for marijuana. You can order a marijuana drug test today – Order a Drug Test.

Marijuana Leaves

Employers have a lot to consider today with marijuana in the workplace. Depending on where your business operates marijuana might be legal. It could be legal for medical or recreational or both. Employers must consider marijuana in the workplace and make decisions and implement policies. Decisions about employees testing positive for marijuana must be included in every companies drug free workplace policy.

In some States, employers may have to decide if they will in fact include marijuana on their drug testing panel. You can find answers to your questions about marijuana in the workplace on our web page entitled – Workplace Considerations for Marijuana Use.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana consists of the dried flowers of the plant called Cannabis sativa. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana that causes the high or intoxication. The chemical is found in the resin produced by the leaves and buds of the plant along with over 500 additional chemicals many that are chemically related to THC, called cannabinoids.

Marijuana started as an herbal medicine many centuries ago. In America, the cannabis plant was used early on to grow hemp for textiles and rope. Around the early 1900s, marijuana was used in the United States as a recreational drug. Mexican immigrants introduced the practice of smoking marijuana to get high. In 1937, the Federal government passed the first Federal law to make criminalize marijuana.

Starting in the mid-1960s, marijuana became the most popular drug among college students. We often hear of older folks saying, “yeah, I only smoked pot back in college.” Under President Richard Nixon, in 1970, marijuana became a Schedule 1 drug, listed with no medical uses and a high potential for abuse. Even with the drug being illegal, marijuana flourished throughout the 1970s and the drug seemed very commonplace. President Jimmy Carter called for the decriminalization of marijuana, but many parents were concerned about their kids’ use of this intoxicating drug.

Today, marijuana is commonly used in the United States with many States having medical marijuana laws and/or recreational marijuana laws. The Federal government reports that over 22.2 million Americans have used marijuana in the past month. The majority of these marijuana users are adolescents and young adults. Smoking marijuana often starts in middle school, and very often students in the 8th grade are smoking marijuana.

California was the first State to permit medical marijuana, today over half of our States have medical marijuana laws. Many of these medical marijuana laws, like in Florida, only allow the use of the chemical cannabidiol or CBD, which does not cause a high. Drug testing is looking for THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol), which is what creates the mind-altering effects or the high. This is also what classifies marijuana as a controlled substance or drug.

Colorado was the first State to permit recreational marijuana in early 2014. Many states have followed and now many Americans have legal access to what they call a pleasurable harmless drug. Studies show marijuana in 1965 had 3% THC and in 2015 it has 99% THC, this is pot that is 33 times stronger. In Colorado, studies are showing a significant increase in marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds. The Colorado medical and recreational marijuana laws have made smoking pot more socially acceptable for kids. Good news for employers, the courts in Colorado have upheld employers’ rights to implement a drug-free workplace, including drug testing for marijuana. We see workplace drug testing on the rise in Colorado.

What are the Effects of Marijuana?

Pot smokers are out to get a feeling of relaxation and euphoria but may end up with anxiety and paranoia. Long-term use can lead to negative cognitive effects relating to space and time perceptions as well as a lack of motivation.

We know that today’s marijuana is much more potent than years ago. The levels of THC are higher. Research shows some alarming negative effects such as increased risk of heart attack, increased car crash risk or increased mental illness, schizophrenia, and psychosis. Studies show that kids who smoke marijuana are very likely to move on to heroin or cocaine.

Marijuana Short-Term Effects

Marijuana Long-Term Effects

Understanding the Marijuana Drug Test

Since the early 1980s, drug-testing programs have expanded across the United States. A marijuana drug test has always been included in the standard 5-panel drug test primarily used by employers. This 5-panel drug test includes marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine / methamphetamine, opiates, and PCP. Typically, every drug test panel includes a test for marijuana unless it is requested that marijuana be specifically excluded. The cut-off levels on a marijuana drug test with a urine specimen are fairly common at 50 ng/ml for the initial screening test and 15 ng/ml for the second confirmation test to verify a positive for THC. Marijuana use can typically be detected 2 – 5 days after use for casual users in a urine drug test. Because laboratory confirmation tests typically use the low 15 ng/ml cut-off for marijuana metabolites, frequent cannabis consumers may test positive on this test for two to three weeks (or even longer in some extreme cases) after their last encounter. There is currently no known test to provide evidence of impairment from use of marijuana.

Marijuana or THC is included in just about every drug test panel unless it is specified not to test for marijuana. Check out our drug test menu for immediate drug testing anywhere in the USA.

The main metabolite that shows in urine for marijuana is 11-nor-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (delta9-THC-COOH). Every positive drug test should be confirmed by a laboratory with the gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) confirmation testing. Beware of instant or rapid drug testing kits that do not confirm positive results. These can show false positives for marijuana like Ibuprofen, Naproxen of Promethazine. Drug testing should always be done by a professional service company that specializes drug screening programs.

Marijuana testing can be with urine, hair, oral fluid or blood. Each shows a different look back period with oral fluid the shortest and hair the longest. Our laboratories at National Drug Screening can perform a hair test for marijuana or a urine test for marijuana. Urine and hair drug testing are the most common screening tests for marijuana. A blood test is invasive and very expensive so not used very often. The hair marijuana drug test is used to show marijuana use going back up to 90 days.


Street Names for Marijuana or THC

The most popular street drug in America is still marijuana. Over 70% of people who use illicit drugs list marijuana as their drug of choice. In 2014, more than 10 million people were arrested driving under the influence of marijuana. Let’s take a look at some of the names you might hear if someone is referring to the drug:

Our web site includes a comprehensive section on Marijuana in the Workplace to help employers navigate through the haze of legal vs illegal marijuana and the legalities for drug testing for marijuana.