Here’s a common scenario: you’re at a get-together and someone passes a joint, so normally, you take a hit. But, you haven’t smoked in years, or maybe months, so one hit is all it takes to get you going. However, you remember that your employer may soon announce the mandatory drug test you take every year and you flinch on the spot even though you know you’re not a regular smoker.
Drug testing in the workplace has now become the norm and marijuana is still included on the list because it’s still federally illegal, so it’s normal to be concerned. If you’re wondering how long marijuana stays in your system after one hit of weed and whether it’s detectable, this article is for you.
Why Does Cannabis Stick Around for So Long?
You probably know that cannabis lingers in your system for a while before it gets eliminated, which is why it can be detected on a drug test weeks after use. Let us tell you why that happens and how it relates to taking a single hit of weed.
When you smoke weed, the cannabinoids in it enter your bloodstream directly through your lungs from where they travel throughout the rest of the body. Eventually, the cannabinoids must pass through the liver where they get metabolized and turned into byproducts (also called metabolites) so that they can be more easily eliminated from the body. And this is where it gets interesting.
Where It Gets Interesting
The cannabinoids in weed, or more importantly, the two main cannabinoids THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), are fat-soluble, meaning they bind to fat. The metabolites that they get turned into are also fat-soluble and they bind themselves to the fat cells in your body. It’s believed that the higher your body fat or BMI index, the more metabolites you’re able to store.
THC is particularly stubborn because one of its metabolites, called THC-COOH, tends to linger in the fatty tissues for a longer amount of time. This is why the most commonly used drug tests are designed to detect THC metabolites. Some detect THC itself, but we’ll get into that later.
You see, THC is problematic because it’s the cannabinoid that produces the psychoactive effects, the main reason for weed being federally illegal, which is why it’s still included in drug tests, despite the state laws changing.
THC may take a while to eliminate as its half-life (the length of time it takes for it to be reduced by half) can vary depending on the frequency of use.
How Long Does Weed Stay In Your System Based on Frequency of Use?
As you may have figured out by now, how long weed stays in your body depends largely on how frequently you use it. In general, cannabis users who smoke infrequently or occasionally have fewer THC metabolites stored in their fatty tissues than heavy users or regular users who smoke daily.
However, what’s more important is how far back cannabis use can be detected, which depends entirely on the detection method used, a.k.a. the type of drug test, as well as its sensitivity.
Different types of drug tests use different detection methods, so let’s see how taking a single hit of weed fits into that.
Detection Times for Weed Will Vary With the Type of Drug Test Used
Each type of drug test has a different time frame for detection, which refers to how far back it can detect marijuana use. Additionally, each test measures the amount of THC or THC metabolites at a different threshold also called a cutoff level. If your test result is at or above this limit, you will test positive.
Urine Test – The Most Common Drug Test
The urine drug test is the most commonly used drug test in the workplace because it’s fast, non-invasive, and generally accurate. It detects the presence of THC metabolites at a cutoff level of 50 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) and the detection time can vary from 3 days for one-time users and infrequent users to 40 days for heavy users.
Hair Follicle Test – Less Common, but the Most Accurate
The hair follicle test also detects THC metabolites. It’s not very commonly used in the workplace, but it’s currently the most accurate drug test. It can detect habitual cannabis use for up to 90 days because the THC metabolites are ingrained in the hair shaft of chronic users.
Blood Test – Rarely Used, Has the Shortest Detection Time
The blood test is different because it looks for THC itself as THC metabolites aren’t found in the blood. It’s rarely used in the workplace but is more commonly used to detect current impairment or very recent use. It has the shortest detection time of 4-24 hours after last use, but for heavy smokers, it can be longer because the bloodstream won’t have enough time to clear the THC.
Saliva Test – Sometimes Used, Has a Short Detection Time
The saliva test is sometimes used in the workplace, more commonly so in recent years, and it’s used to detect recent marijuana use. Like the blood test, it detects THC itself because the metabolites aren’t present in the saliva. It can detect how long THC stays in the oral cavity for 24 to 72 hours after last use for one-time users and occasional users and up to 29 days for daily smokers.
Then, How Long Does One Hit of Weed Stay In the System and Can It Be Detected?
Good question. The thing is, if your cannabis use is at a minimum, meaning you take a hit of weed every once in a blue moon (whether you vape it or smoke it), it’s very likely that your system will clear it in 3-5 days tops.
If you’re worried about drug testing in your workplace shortly after you took a hit of weed, here’s what we’ll tell you. Unless you smoked a whole joint or puffed huge clouds of smoke from a bong, it’s unlikely that you should be concerned.
If you only took one hit and your employer scheduled a drug test in a week, your chances of passing the test are solid as the levels of the THC metabolites in your body will probably be too low to be detected.
The only drug test you should be mildly worried about is the saliva test, but only if you’re surprised with it in the following couple of days, in case some of the THC still lingers in your mouth.
So, if you’re not a daily user and happened to take a hit of weed over the weekend, you probably shouldn’t be concerned.
Is There Something I Can Do To Detox After One Hit of Weed?
If you’re feeling on edge and would be more comfortable detoxing after that hit of weed, you can do so. The best detox is the natural detox, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Some cannabis users claim that cranberry juice and detox drinks work, but don’t force them. Well, cranberry juice is otherwise full of vitamins, but you don’t have to drink it specifically for detox.
Just drink lots of water, eat fresh foods and increase your protein intake, and exercise regularly to speed up the release and elimination of THC metabolites.
Cannabis stays in the body for much longer than the high it causes because of the way its cannabinoids are metabolized in the body. THC metabolites, in particular, stay in the fat cells for a while and they accumulate the more frequently you use weed, making them detectable by some drug tests.
What this means for taking a single hit of weed is that the body will likely clear it in a few days or at least render it undetectable by most drug tests. The only scenario where it could possibly be detected is if you had to take a saliva test within 72 hours after smoking weed. In all other cases, it’s pretty unlikely.