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Does Delta-8 THC Show Up on a Drug Test?

Delta-8 THC products have flown off shelves over the past couple of years, with sales estimated at nearly $10 million in 2021 alone. The reason? Delta-8 THC is psychoactive and derived from hemp extract, making it federally legal.

 

Despite Delta-8's federally legal status, 20 states have restricted or banned Delta-8 THC sales, including marijuana-friendly California and New York. Another four states are reviewing Delta-8's legal status, making it a complicated compound. However, if you live in one of the 30(ish) states where Delta-8 is permissible under state and federal law, you might be wondering if you can consume this psychoactive compound without fear of consequences.

 

You may be asking yourself: Will Delta-8 THC make me fail a drug test? Let's explore.


What is Delta-8 THC, and how is it different from Delta-9 THC?

Delta-9 THC is the most dominant psychoactive cannabinoid in hemp and cannabis. Unfortunately, it's also federally illicit under most circumstances. However, you can have up to 0.3% Delta-9 THC in hemp plants by dry weight legally.

 

Delta-9 is the most dominant compound, but it's not the only compound or THC variation in the plant. In fact, hemp and cannabis naturally produce over 100 cannabinoids and various THC isomers, including Delta-8 (and Delta-6, Delta-7, and Delta-10, etc.). The difference is that Delta-8 consists of a slightly different molecular structure than Delta-9  and exists in such small quantities that it's barely detectable in the plant. As a result, most manufacturers produce Delta-8 in a lab by chemically converting CBD into the legal THC isomer.

 

Delta-8 and Delta-9's molecular variation is enough to create different cognitive and physical outcomes. For instance, Delta-8 is about half as potent as Delta-9, reducing many of Delta-9's adverse side effects, like paranoia, mental fog, impaired motor skills, and increased feelings of anxiety. As a result, Delta-8 users often report a more mellow, easy-going experience.

 

Chemistry aside, the notable difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9 is legality. Federal laws specifically bans Delta-9 and explicitly allows all other hemp cannabinoids, including Delta-8. That's great news if you live in a state that prohibits marijuana because it means you can access THC's benefits without navigating the black market or fearing arrest.

 

But what about potential unintended consequences, like losing a job or violating probation if a drug test isn't sophisticated enough to discern the difference?


How do most marijuana drug tests work?

Typical drug tests look for metabolites, or the drug's residual byproducts that remain in your system after your body processes it. Drug tests generally fall into one of three primary areas.

 

  • Urine (90% of employers, the most prevalent by far)
  • Saliva (10% of employers and often used by law enforcement)
  • Hair (7% of employers)

 

These drug tests can detect Delta-9 in your system from several days up to several months after use. The timeframe depends on the test type and the amount and frequency of use:

 

  • Urine: Up to 3 days (6 days in heavy users)
  • Saliva: Up to 24 hours
  • Hair: Up to 90 days


Does Delta-8 show up on a drug test?

So, if drug tests detect Delta-9, what about Delta-8? Will Delta-8 also cause you to fail a drug test?

 

The answer, unfortunately, is yes because Delta-8 and Delta-9 are virtually identical in chemical structure. Urine tests, the most used by employers, and saliva and hair tests simply aren't advanced enough to distinguish between Delta-8 and Delta-9. To your dismay (and ours), Delta-8 is not a viable alternative for you if you need to pass a drug test.


What if a drug test could tell the difference between Delta-8 and Delta-9?

Imagine a new drug test came on the scene that could differentiate between Delta-8 and Delta-9. Would that mean you can smoke, vape, eat, or drink Delta-8 products and pass a drug test where Delta-8 is legal?

 

Unfortunately, you might still fail due to another gut-wrenching fact: Many Delta-8 products contain illicit levels of Delta-9. One analysis of Delta-8 vaping products revealed that 15 out of 16 had more than 0.3% Delta-9. The study raised troubling concerns about intentional or accidental mislabeling.


How long does Delta-8 stay in your system?

Despite its lower potency, Delta-8 can stay in your system for a significant time. Your age, metabolism, frequency of use, and the dosage amount will affect how long Delta-8 stays in your body, but it ranges from two to 30 days. Like Delta-9, hair-follicle tests can detect Delta-8 for an even longer duration, sometimes up to three months.


Will I get fired for failing a drug test due to Delta-8 in my system?

So, what happens if you use a product with Delta-8 and fail a drug test? The answer depends entirely on the laws in your state and your specific job requirements. You could get suspended, demoted, or even terminated—it's your employer's discretion to decide what disciplinary action to take based on its legal authority.

 

However, some state laws prohibit employers from firing employees for a first-time positive drug test. For instance, although New York banned Delta-8, the adult-use cannabis state also enacted measures to prevent people from getting fired for failing marijuana drug tests. Specifically, New York's new guidance says that businesses can't discriminate based on employees who use cannabis "outside of the workplace, outside of work hours, and without using the employer's equipment or property." New Yorkers still can't use marijuana on the clock or in specific sectors, such as the government, but laws like this are a big step toward workers' rights.


The bottom line

Delta-8 is so structurally similar to Delta-9 that it will still likely make you fail a drug test, regardless of the method. Most drug tests are simply not sophisticated enough to tell the difference. On top of that, products labeled as Delta-8 might contain illegal amounts of Delta-9 THC. However, the most paramount considerations are where you live and your occupation. That's why it's essential to stay up to date on your local laws.

 

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Have a question? See something missing? Send us a message with any questions or concerns. And if you live in New York, check back every month for updates on the state's burgeoning adult-use cannabis, medical cannabis, and hemp program rules.

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