You might have arrived here after randomly pondering the question ‘I wonder how long weed stays in my system?’ but we’d bet an ounce of your favorite strain that you are here because you have a drug test coming up or if not, you are concerned that at some point you might have.
Yes, it’s a crazy situation in this so-called enlightened age. We could spend plenty of time venting our feelings about the drug tests that are carried out in many workplaces today and even in legal states! But that’s a topic for another day.
We are here to answer the question of how long does marijuana stay in your system.
So without further ado, the answer is…
It depends. Which we know is the most annoying answer in the English language! But hey, don’t go yet! We will give you the answer to your burning question and you’ll discover lots of cool stuff about weed, pee, blood, hair, and saliva on the way.
Having a little knowledge of how marijuana affects the body, and why it stays in some people’s systems longer than others, is information worth knowing.
So let’s start by discussing THC.
All About THC
THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive chemical found in marijuana that gives us that familiar high that we experience after smoking or ingesting it.
When you smoke or vape weed, this chemical compound travels from your lungs and into your bloodstream. It is then transported to your brain and other organs of your body. It will only take a few minutes before you start to feel its effects, which will usually last for between one to three hours but can last up to 8. If you dab, the process can be even faster with a more or less instantaneous hit.
The process is a little different when you consume edibles. When you ingest cannabis, it enters your bloodstream through the intestine walls after being transported along your digestive tract. The effects take longer with edibles, and you will start feeling the effects after around 20 minutes, but it can take up to an hour. The high peaks at about two hours, but you can continue to feel some effects for up to 24-hours.
Whether you choose to smoke, vape, dab, or ingest your weed, your body will quickly metabolize the THC.
When the THC gets broken down in your liver, it forms more than 80 metabolites, but the one we are interested in is THC-COOH. This is the metabolite that they will be looking to detect during a urine test. While they can’t test for the active delta-9 THC (the stuff that gets you high) when urine testing, THC-COOH, and other metabolites remain in your body for a lot longer and will show that marijuana has recently been processed in the body.
While most of the THC metabolites will be excreted out of your body, some will be absorbed and stored in your fatty tissues. Even though marijuana produces a short term high, the metabolites are still hanging around your system for much longer, and a drug test can detect them for days and sometimes months after you’ve used it.
So when you asked ‘how long does marijuana stay in your system,’ what you really should be asking is how long does the metabolite THC-COOH stay in your system.
And we are going to answer that question very shortly!
Every year employers conduct somewhere between 40 and 50 million drug tests. These tests analyze urine, hair follicles, blood, and saliva. The most common test for detecting weed is urine testing. While marijuana continues to be legalized and decriminalized in more states, most employers will still refuse to employ or sack an existing employee who tests positive for cannabis during a screening.
We are going to take a look at the four main types of marijuana drug tests and give you an indication of how long THC remains in your system.
The most likely way you will be screened for weed is with a urine test, where they will check for the level of THC-COOH in your pee.
So now we finally get round to answering your question. Though hopefully, you understand why we had to give you some background information first.
How long does marijuana stay in your urine?
How long THC or, more specifically, THC-COOH will show up in your urine will depend on a number of different factors that we take a look at after discussing the various types of marijuana drug tests. Still, for now, this is a general guideline.
- If you have only smoked some weed once in the last month, it will stay in your system for around 3 to 8 days.
- If you consume weed regularly around 4 to 6 times per month, it can stay in your system for a period of up to 15 days.
- If you are what could be deemed as a heavy user, i.e., someone who partakes in smoking or ingesting cannabis at least 20 times per month, then it will stay in your urine for more than 30 days and up to 80 days.
As we said, this is a very general guide, and other considerations should be taken into account, more to come on that in a while.
Urine screening tends to be the most common drug testing method and is the only method recommended by SAMHSA, who set the standards for government employee drug testing in the USA. It also is a preferred method as it provides a longer time for detection and is more accurate than blood or saliva tests and is less costly than hair-follicle testing.
The procedure for a urine test is simple enough; you will pee into a specimen cup typically in private but, in rare cases, supervised. As well as checking for the presence of THC-COOH using a color-change strip, they will also assess the temperature, odor, smell, creatinine levels, salt content, and PH level. As some people who are tested will try to game the system, this is to determine if the pee is the real deal or not.
The results will then be passed on to whoever asked you to take the test, and then your fate is in the laps of the gods.
Dissimilar to urine testing, when you have your blood tested for marijuana, they measure the delta-9 THC levels in your blood, this is the psychoactive THC that gets you high. Blood tests for cannabis use are rare. Usually, they are carried out by law enforcement officers for DUI investigations or, for instance, after a car accident. A blood test can’t show long-term use of marijuana.
How long does marijuana stay in your blood?
As we mentioned earlier, THC doesn’t stay in the bloodstream for long as it is broken down into metabolites fairly soon after consumption and then resides in the fatty tissue of your body. For single-use or those that enjoy weed from time to time, it will show up in a blood test up to 24 hours after consumption. If you smoke on a regular basis, it could be up to 7 days before it leaves the blood. Just like we talked about with urine drug testing, these times aren’t set in stone as no one person or weed strain is the same.
A mouth swab drug test is often used by traffic cops and is becoming a preferred method for roadside law enforcement because it is fast and cheap. Saliva tests are used to detect recent weed consumption, much like blood tests, so are looking for delta-9 THC secreted in the mouth, which, if you remember, is the active mind-altering stuff.
How long does marijuana stay in your saliva?
The good news about saliva is that THC is detectable for a very short amount of time. This is still no consolation, though, if you get pulled over for a random drug test while on the way home.
Saliva tests can detect THC in saliva for up to 24 hours, even if you just had the one smoking session. If you are a regular consumer, it can hang around in your mouth for up to 72 hours.
While there are no sure-fire solutions for passing a roadside saliva test, edibles can lessen your chances of detection as the THC doesn’t coat your mouth in the same manner as smoking. But take into account that saliva tests are becoming more and more sensitive.
A hair follicle drug test offers the most precise and longest method of detection. As with urine drug tests, THC-COOH is the compound present that the test will be looking to detect. During a hair follicle test, the lab technician will take a 1.5-inch cutting of your hair, which is around three months of growth.
How long does marijuana stay in your hair?
Around 90 days is the length of time that you are tested for, so use it as your benchmark.
There is some controversy regarding how reliable hair follicle tests are, as a false positive can show if your hair is exposed to smoke from marijuana from other users.
Factors That Can Influence How Long Weed Stays in Your System
Determining how long weed will stay in your body is unfortunately not an exact science, there are several factors at play that can influence how long it will take to get rid of it. These are some of the main considerations that will govern the outcome.
Your Body Fat Content
As those crafty THC-COO metabolites like to hang out in the fatty tissues and organs in your body, the more body fat you are carrying, the longer they are going to stay in your body. As females tend to have more body fat than men, it might also take longer for women to metabolize these compounds. The only thing you can do if you are carrying a few to many pounds and want to shift some weight and some metabolites is to hit the gym and eat healthily.
Some people are just born with a fast metabolism, and if you are one of them, count yourself lucky as it means those weed metabolites will leave your system much quicker. If you are getting on in years and you enjoy a smoke, keep in mind that your metabolism isn’t what it was when you were younger. As such, you might take longer to flush that THC out of your body.
This is probably self-explanatory, but there are lots of different marijuana strains out there with different strengths. If you smoke a stronger strain, the THC concentration will be higher, which means that a greater amount of cannabinoids will be left in your system.
Frequency of Use
Another obvious factor is if you are a frequent weed user, the more you smoke, the more likely it is to appear in your urine in the long-term.
How long THC stays in your body will depend on a number of variables, we’ve given you some ballpark figures, but that’s all they are. It is extremely difficult to predict with any certainty how long THC will stick around, and we don’t want to mislead you otherwise. Your age, sex, metabolism, and overall health will all impact how weed is metabolized in your body. As well as how often you smoke, what your smoke, and how you ingest it.
This article isn’t meant to be medical or legal advice, so ultimately, how you use this information is up to you. Hopefully, you will have gained a few insights and a deeper understanding of the subject. Safe smoking!