If I use cannabis topicals, will I test positive on a THC drug test?

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Ask The Cannabist: Experts share some intel on how infused topicals and transdermal THC patches work, and whether they could lead to a positive result on a marijuana drug test

Hey, Cannabist!
I was wondering: Will marijuana topicals show up in a drug test, because I’ve been looking everywhere but I don’t seem to get a clear answer for it. I have been using it for about two weeks now and I’m already going my fourth week without smoking so I just want to know if it will show in my upcoming drug test?
–Topical Tony


Hey, Tony!
It looks like this is a two-part question. A) Could marijuana topicals cause a positive drug test? and B) Will you pass an upcoming drug test?

First things first. For those unfamiliar, topicals refer to a wide range of cannabis-infused products. They come in an array of forms — lotions, salves, balms, ointments and sprays — and are applied to the skin to provide a localized effect. Topical use is typically not intoxicating, and rather is considered therapeutic, such as massages with cannabis lotions.

Is there a risk of THC absorbing through the skin and causing a positive result in a marijuana drug test?

“Most likely the answer is no,” said Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“THC is lipid soluble so one would expect very little THC to enter the bloodstream via transdermal delivery,” Armentano told The Cannabist via email. He is deputy director of NORML and recipient of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship and author of numerous articles on drug testing.

To get more information on topicals and the bloodstream, I reached out to Dahlia Mertens, CEO of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, a Colorado company making topicals in Telluride since 2010.

“The cannabinoids in topicals do not actually enter the bloodstream (that is why topicals do not get you high), instead they interact with the peripheral nervous system,” Mertens said in an email. “As a result, people that use our topicals have not tested positive for THC in drug tests.”

So, in Merten’s business experience, none of her customers have tested positive in a drug test from her topical products.

However, the makers of some topical products, like the transdermal THC patches from Colorado-based Mary’s Medicinals assert the product is delivered directly to the bloodstream.

 

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