Next to flowers and concentrates, cannabis-infused edibles are the legal industry’s hottest selling products. But even in states where marijuana is legal for adult use, employers, courts, and probation officers can still order individuals to take drug tests for weed.
How long will those edibles stay in your system, and how long can it show up on a drug screen?
Typically, ingesting weed the old fashioned way (inhaling it) can show up on a drug screen for days — if not months — after the last puff. That’s because THC, the compound in weed that causes intoxication, is fat-soluble, meaning it only dissolves in fats and oils instead of water.
Whenever someone consumes cannabis, not all of the THC and its metabolites immediately flush out through the urine (remember, urine is mostly water). Instead, some THC ends up in our fat cells, where it remains trapped until our bodies burn up those fat cells through metabolism. Since the human body evolved to burn the fat cells last (if you’re starving, the body opts to break down muscle first), THC trickles out bit by bit. That’s why someone can test positive for weeks after last getting high, while a meth user can piss clean just a few days after.
Gallery — When Edibles Look Like Real Food Products
The key factor for clearing THC from the body is an individual’s metabolic rate, or how fast a body’s chemicals are processing. Other factors include body-fat content (more body fat equals longer THC clearance times); diet (fatty and sugary foods reduce THC clearance); and frequency and quantity of cannabis consumption (obviously, eating more weed means it sticks around longer).
However, eating weed versus smoking it also affects THC clearance rates. If you eat your cannabis, THC will remain in your system longer than if you only smoked it.
If you want a solid answer in full figures, you can always estimate your clearance time with an online pee-weed calculator. Additionally, this guide will only address urine testing for weed. Hair follicle tests can detect THC for up to a year, saliva tests can catch it up to an hour after eating, and blood tests are unreliable for edibles.
How Much Longer Do Edibles Stay in the System?
There’s no clear-cut answer here, but we discovered some solid clues.
If someone who doesn’t smoke weed puffs one joint to the head then stops, that person will test positive for THC about three to four days after imbibing. Keep in mind, that’s just an average, and will likely take longer for folks with slower metabolisms or higher body weights.
On the other hand, if our drug-free test subject eats an edible that contains as much THC as a joint, we’re looking at a much longer clearance window. There hasn’t been a lot of research on weed edibles, but one 1988 study found that if our hypothetical straight-edge subject eats a pot brownie, it would take three to 14 days for THC to clear out of their system.
Why Does THC From Edibles Stick Around for So Long?
When someone inhales cannabis, THC goes directly from the pipe to their lungs. The lungs then absorb the THC and transfer it to the blood. From the blood, the THC can reach the nerves and ultimately the brain, generating weed’s world-famous high.
Afterward, the inhaled THC and its metabolites fall from the nerve receptors and return to the blood. Then, most of it gets excreted through both of our lower orifices, but some stays in our system — and mainly in our fat cells.
When you eat your cannabis, THC travels a different route than smoking. It goes from the esophagus to the stomach to the blood and then the liver. Instead of entering the bloodstream in one big burst with smoking, oral ingestion releases THC into the blood at a slower rate.
Furthermore, the liver produces bile, which is what lets us absorb fat from the food we eat. The slower release rate, coupled with the liver’s role, is why edibles put more THC into our fat cells than smoke.
So, if you know you’re getting drug-screened after that big job interview, and you insist on getting your herb, take your chances with a plain ol’ joint. Save the edibles until you actually get the job.
Follow Randy Robinson on Twitter