Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 7, 2023

In states where hemp CBD products are legal, many people have been using them regularly, mostly for medical reasons. If you’ve been using hemp oil or cream, or are thinking of using it, you may be wondering will hemp oil show up on a drug test.

You may have heard stories of people failing a drug test due to their use of hemp oil or topicals, but you can never know for sure. This can be a cause for concern for people at workplaces that have frequent unscheduled drug screenings and it can be discouraging.

If testing positive is something you’ve been thinking about, then this article is for you. Below, we’ll discuss what drug tests commonly look for and talk about the cannabinoids in hemp products for better clarification. Let’s start with the basics.

What Do Drug Tests Look For?

Drug screens in certain industries and workplaces are routinely performed where employers look for any kind of drug use that may impair the working ability of their employees. Workers who use hemp oil for pain relief, anxiety, or any other medical conditions may be at a bigger risk of failing the drug test. But is that really the case? What are drug tests actually designed to look for?

Drugs in the body may be detected through blood and urine samples, as well as hair strands and saliva (not common). Most companies, though, use the urine drug test to screen for marijuana use because it’s usually accurate and cost-effective. They abide by the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) guidelines.

Drug screenings through urine samples are designed to look for the presence of specific amounts of THC metabolites in the system, like THC-COOH. They don’t look for CBD mostly because it’s a non-intoxicating compound and won’t cause impairment of judgment or of motor skills.

However, some hemp oils, tinctures, and topicals can contain trace amounts of THC. Even though these amounts can’t cause psychoactive effects, if they’re in large concentrations, they may still be detected and cause a positive drug test result.

But how will you know if you’re at risk? Let’s see some more details.

THC Cutoff Level Makes All the Difference

According to the SAMHSA guidelines, the standard cutoff levels for the presence of THC metabolites are 50 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter), meaning that THC at or above this level is detectable and will result in a failed drug test.

So far so good. However, the tricky part here is that there are many factors that can influence the amount of THC present in a person’s metabolism at the moment of testing, like tolerance, weight, body mass index, gender, etc. Plus, some oils contain trace amounts of THC, and if the individual medicates with higher doses, it may add up, and the levels of THC may end up being high enough to be detected.

To Lower the Risk, Know Your Oils

Since most drug tests look for THC metabolites, if you’re using or want to use hemp oil, you should know about its cannabinoid content to avoid taking risks.

Is Hemp Oil the Same as CBD Oil?

When it comes to hemp oil and CBD oil there is often confusion, mainly due to their name and classification. People tend to think that they are the same variety, but while they have many similarities, there are differences regarding their source.

To clarify, both oils are extracted from the flowers of two different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp oil is extracted from the industrial variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, also known as the hemp plant, and CBD oil can be extracted from all cannabis varieties.

However, there is a difference between these two sources and that’s the cannabinoid content. All cannabis varieties contain a certain ratio between the two main cannabinoids – THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive compound that makes you feel high, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has medicinal uses. Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant and doesn’t contain any cannabinoids.

That said, hemp has higher concentrations of CBD with very little THC, usually no more than 0.3 %, while other cannabis varieties are usually much higher in THC and much lower in CBD than hemp. Therefore, hemp oil will naturally contain higher concentrations of CBD than the CBD oil extracted from marijuana and won’t have enough THC to get you high.

Why Do Some Hemp Oils Contain THC?

There are three versions of hemp oils: pure CBD isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum CBD. CBD isolate is the extract of CBD alone and it doesn’t include THC or any other cannabinoids and terpenes.

The full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils are similar to each other – both contain other cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD, but the full spectrum also includes trace amounts of THC, while the broad-spectrum doesn’t.

Therefore, if you want to be on the safe side, it’s best to use an oil that is THC-free. Keep in mind to also buy from trusted dispensaries, as sometimes products have inaccurate labeling. Make sure the hemp oil that you buy is federally licensed and tested. Good quality oils have their content neatly printed on the label and are produced by a reliable manufacturer. This will greatly reduce the chances of “hidden THC.”

Do Hemp Topicals Enter the Bloodstream?

Hemp topicals, such as hemp creams and lotions, are CBD oil-infused products that are used locally to alleviate mild joint or muscle pain, or to reduce soreness and inflammation. As such, they have therapeutic use and benefits.

Hemp topicals are well-liked because of their medical benefits, but many worry if the hemp-infused creams and lotions can enter the bloodstream through the skin and possibly show up on drug tests.

While it’s true that some topicals contain trace amounts of THC, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll enter the bloodstream or show up on drug tests. Since topicals are applied to the skin, they attach to the receptors on the skin, the muscle tissue, and nerves. However, they can’t go any deeper than that because they get absorbed before they reach the deeper levels of the skin and enter the bloodstream.

Can CBD Lotion Make You Fail a Drug Test?

The skin is a natural barrier that protects your body from a whole number of things, such as UV lights, absorbing harmful chemicals, preventing the invasion of pathogens, or other toxins you may come in contact with. If we take the previous statement into consideration, cannabinoids are unlikely to get in your bloodstream and produce a positive result in your drug test. In fact, if you don’t consume these products orally, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get a positive test even if the product you applied as a CBD lotion contained more than 0.3% THC.

Hemp creams, lotions, and balms that don’t contain THC, but rather CBD, have even less of a chance to show up on a drug test. Keep in mind that the cannabis market is a highly unregulated one and some products contain more THC than what’s listed on the label, but even still, you’re unlikely to end up with a positive test result.

The only thing you need to be careful with is transdermal patches, as they work in the same way as nicotine patches. They are very concentrated and are able to permeate the skin and enter the bloodstream. If you end up using a transdermal patch that contains unregulated percentages of THC, the cannabinoid can enter the bloodstream, and you may get a positive result in your drug test.

Can False Positive Results Happen?

Yes, false positive results can happen, although it’s very rare. These situations most likely happen when people take high doses of hemp oil (at least 1000mg per day) that contains 0.3% THC, or if the THC content of their oil is higher than what the label states. Pure hemp CBD isolates oil that’s been lab-tested and approved shouldn’t cause false-positive results.

If hemp cream, lotion, or any other topical is all you’ve been using, then false-positive results shouldn’t occur, as even if the topical contains trace amounts of THC, it shouldn’t be detectable.

Bottom Line

Hemp oils and topicals are a wonderful and generally safe way to treat various conditions and localized pain and inflammation with little chance of side effects, but concerns about failing a drug test are completely normal.

Technically, failing a drug test after taking hemp oil is possible, but it depends on many factors, the biggest being the type of hemp oil you use. Since the majority of drug tests screen for THC metabolites in the urine and not CBD, if you use hemp oil that doesn’t contain any THC, you shouldn’t be worried. However, if your oil does contain trace amounts of THC, there is still a small chance. Therefore, you should always opt for hemp CBD isolate oil to lower your risk.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.