Given the tendency of a lot of employers (and just about all probation officers) to test your urine for substances, it’s no wonder that cannabis users are worried about risking their employment prospects (or their freedom).
When there’s a lot on the line, it pays to be aware of just how long those incriminating cannabinoids hang around. Knowledge is power, and in this case it can also mean keeping your job.
How Long Does Weed Stay In Your Urine?
So, how long does weed stay in your urine? When can you finally relax? That depends on a couple things, but, mostly, how frequently you consume marijuana. The body’s fat cells bind really well with cannabis metabolites and as you consume more weed, the THC accumulates.
That means if you’re a heavy smoker, it’s going to take awhile for the weed to no longer be in your urine.
If you’ve only smoked pot one time, you can still test positive via urinalysis (a “piss test,” in the vernacular) for up to eight days. Folks who smoke two to four times a week will test positive for up to 18 days.
Regular users are usually caught via the tests for up to 30 days. And the heaviest users, yours truly included, have tested positive from 45 days to an incredible 77 days later. (Big respect to whomever that dude or dudette was, by the way.) When you ask pros, “how long does weed stay in your urine?” They’ll usually say give it three months to be safe.
How long does THC stay in your urine?
Urinalysis doesn’t test for THC itself. Instead, it looks for a THC metabolite, THC-COOH. When this stuff is present in your urine, it means your body has recently processed THC… a smoking gun, so to speak.
The bad part of this is that it can lead to people testing positive for pot a long time after they’ve used it. And the THC is going to be detectable in your pee regardless of how you consume it: joints, pipes, bongs, vapes, dabs, they’ll all get you caught for up to 30 days if you consume regularly.
And if you’re the type of marijuana consumer who does multiple dabs a day, or consumes full extract cannabis oil (as do many medical marijuana patients to control pain), your period of vulnerability to piss testing will extend well over two months. Just keep that 77-day figure in mind.
Why and how does THC end up in your pee?
THC, CBD, and the rest of the cannabinoids have metabolic byproducts, called metabolites. These substances are lipid-soluble, meaning they accumulate in fat deposits throughout the body. They slowly are excreted through urine over time. It’s almost as if the human likes the metabolites of THC, because rather than getting rid of them ASAP, like it does with other substances, it holds onto them as long as possible.
For comparison purposes, alcohol stays in the system up to five days; cocaine from two to 10 days; amphetamines two to three days; opioids two to five days; LSD two to three days; psilocybin up to five days; and Ecstasy (Molly) from two to three days.
Your body eliminates many waste metabolites through urine. One of those, you guessed it, is our friend THC-COOH, which science types refer to as a “carboxy.” To get rid of things like THC-COOH, the human body utilizes something called glucuronic acid, which binds to the metabolites before they pass out of the body in the urine stream.
Why urine testing specifically? Aren’t there hair and saliva tests?
Urine tests tend to be the drug test of choice for most private employers. They are also the only tests recommended by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This branch of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sets standards for the drug testing of federal employees.
The urine samples are usually collected on-site, then sent to a lab to be tested.
The two main things to remember about how long THC stays in your urine.
Two main factors play huge roles in how long weed stays in your urine:
First of all, there’s your metabolic rate. If you have a faster metabolism (yes, people do vary), your body will get rid of THC-COOH at a faster rate.
The second big factor is your level of hydration. The more fluids your body is processing (i.e., the more urine you excrete), the faster weed metabolites will exit your system. For this reason, it’s good to stay reasonably hydrated in the weeks following up to your test. Don’t pound a bunch of water in the day or so before though. This can actually backfire because your pee can get so diluted that the sample comes back as unusable. In the worst case scenario, this will also cause the administrator to flag your test and force you do a supervised one next time. In the best case scenario, they’ll just ask you to come back and this will give you more time to get the pot out of your urine.
The same timeline applies to exercise. Exercise will help you break down the fat cells that are holding onto the THC so it’s good to do some working out in the weeks before the test. But (sorry) you can’t just run like a maniac 24 hours before you go in for the urinalysis. In fact, if you do this, you might increase your chances of testing positive.
Labs have pee-testing protocols.
Different labs determine “positive” differently.
The most common cutoff for urine tests is 50 nanograms of THC-COOH per milliliter (ng/mL). Cutoffs can be as low as 15 ng/mL and as high as 100 ng/mL. Each of these cutoff points, of course, results in a widely different window of detection.
Pee testing is usually a two-step process, the first step being a standard cutoff point of 50 ng/mL. Positive tests at this level are often sent off for confirmation with a more sensitive assessment that uses the 15 ng/ML sensitivity.
Oh, crap. How can I pass a drug test if it hasn’t been long enough?
For many, the real question at hand isn’t “how long does weed stay in your urine?”, but “are there ways to beat a drug test?” The short answer is yes if you’re is willing to bend the rules.
There are products available, but Google a few years ago got squirrelly about allowing them to advertise. They include detox pills and detox drinks which are made for the sole purpose of allowing you to pass a urine test after smoking marijuana.
There is also synthetic urine available, believe it or not. Fake pee isn’t exactly inexpensive, though, and you have to be quite careful with it in the event of a monitored pee testing (yes, that’s just how invasive some employers are willing to be, unfortunately).
Lots of stoners, particularly at the novice end of the spectrum, try to pass a piss test by drinking lots and lots of water to dilute the THC, with the idea of “flushing it out.” As mentioned above, two things work against you in this scenario: firstly, THC isn’t water soluble; and secondly, some tests will flag excessively diluted urine.
Can I use fruit pectin to pass a urine test?
There isn’t any proof it works, but some stoners do this. Fruit pectin is a starch made from the cell walls of produce. It’s often used to lend texture to jams and jellies. Well-stocked, larger grocery stores should have it.
The theory is that because fruit pectin is a natural fiber, it makes more THC exit through the bowels rather than through the urine, as it usually would.
The method goes like this:
• Mix fruit pectin with an electrtolyte drink (Gatorade, for example)
• Drink it at least two hours before a urine test. Having it one a day before the test might be a good idea as well.
• Chase that with a bottle (or two) of water and some B vitamins.