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How Long Does Medical Marijuana Stay In Your System?

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As a medical marijuana dispensary, we provide marijuana-based medicine to registered patients who suffer from one of the qualifying conditions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, even approved patients with a medical reason for consuming marijuana may face a job-mandated drug screening to test if they have any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in their system. 

In some instances, knowing how long marijuana or THC stays in your system could significantly impact your ability to apply for certain jobs. For example, you may live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. However, you might want to apply for a job in a neighboring state where it isn’t legalized, and employers are more strict about consumption of the plant.

The answer to the question “How long does marijuana stay in your system?” may seem straightforward, the topic is quite complicated. Many factors dictate how long THC may stay in your system, such as how you’ve consumed it and how much you’ve consumed.

Read on as we dive deep into answering this somewhat complex question.

Factors That Impact How Long Marijuana Stays In Your System

To start, it’s crucial to delve into the factors that determine how long marijuana stays in your system. These factors include things such as the amount of THC you consumed, the frequency of consumption, an individual’s unique genetics, and metabolism. Let’s dive in!

How Much THC Did You Consume?

The amount of time that medical marijuana stays in your system depends, in part, on how much THC you’ve consumed. The more you consume, the longer it stays in your body due to the time required for it to break down and leave your system.

Some strains and medical marijuana products are more potent than others, but your consumption method (e.g. edibles, tinctures, inhalation) typically has no impact on how long THC stays in your system. 

However, the effects of vaping or smoking have a quicker onset than edibles. The delayed effects associated with edibles often lead to people taking additional, or heavier, doses, increasing the amount of THC consumption, causing the ingested THC to remain in your system for an extended period of time. We will explain edible ingestion versus inhalation further in a different section.

How Often Do You Consume Medical Marijuana?

Habitual consumers retain THC in their systems far longer than moderate or occasional consumers. Somebody consuming marijuana for the first time typically has a detection window of three days.

Comparatively, daily consumers may have a detection window of up to 30 days or more for urine tests (the most commonly conducted drug screening). 

How Do Your Genetics Impact The Process?

Genetics may also play a role in how long marijuana remains in your system.

For instance, having specific enzyme variants can lead to a more streamlined elimination of medical marijuana or THC. The enzyme concentration within your system is typically a trait you’ve inherited genetically.

How Much Body Fat Do You Carry?

Marijuana detection can be impacted by how much body fat you carry.

THC binds to fat molecules since it’s fat soluble, causing it to remain in your system for extended periods. Thus, people with a higher body-fat percentage might metabolize THC slower than those with a lower body-fat percentage.

Other factors include gender and age, but body fat and metabolic rates may play a role in both instances. 

How Fast (Or Slow) Is Your Metabolism?

Normal bodily functions eliminate medical marijuana from your system. 

Most often, people with high-functioning metabolisms eliminate THC and marijuana from their system much faster than people with slower metabolisms. 

Thus, those with fast-acting metabolisms typically have shorter detection windows. 

How Are You Being Tested?

This subsection exists in somewhat of a gray area. It deals with how long THC can be detected in your system versus how long it actually remains in your system. The following information is to be used as a general guideline, but please note that results and detection windows will vary per person, and may still exceed the expected date range.

With blood tests, THC generally can only be detected for three to four hours after consumption. Urine tests can typically detect THC in your system for up to 30 days after you’ve consumed it. Saliva tests generally have have a detection window of up to 72 hours.

The most sensitive tests are hair tests which can detect THC in your system up to 90 days post-usage. 

There’s much more to explore about drug screening methods, which we’ll dive into below.

Which Drug Tests Are The Most Common?

Urine tests are the most common type of THC-detection method

While we provided a detection window above, a three to 30-day window isn’t the most granular or specific answer. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how long urine tests can detect THC in your system:

  • For one-time consumption, expect THC to be detectable for about three days
  • If you consume up to four times per week, expect THC to be present for about five to seven days
  • People who consume cannabis between five and seven days per week could expect THC to turn up in their system for two weeks, give or take
  • Individuals consuming cannabis multiple times per day can expect THC to be detectable in their urine for 30 days or more.

As we pointed out above, the most stringent test is conducted using hair follicles. In other words, anyone using the hair follicle method to detect THC in your system is likely militant about catching any potential usage of marijuana. Cannabinoids use small blood vessels for transportation to your hair follicles and form sweat and sebum around your hair shaft. Human hair typically grows around a half inch each month. A one-and-a-half-inch hair segment near the scalp can offer a ninety-day window of THC detection.

The Length Of The Marijuana Metabolization Process

The principal psychoactive component of medical marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is absorbed by the bloodstream when consumed. Some THC is stored in fatty tissues and organs temporarily.

Your liver is responsible for breaking down THC, which has over 100 metabolites, the most significant being 11-OH-THC and THCOOH. Drug tests detect these two metabolites, each exceeding THC in how long they remain in your system. Through urine and stool, THC, 11-OH-THC, and THCOOH are excreted over time. 

The duration of excretion depends on how frequently you consume medical marijuana because higher usage rates are linked to a higher baseline of THC metabolite concentration. The more THC metabolites are in your body, the more excretion is prolonged. 

Can You Increase The Speed Of Metabolization? 

Once THC metabolites enter your system, there isn’t much you can do to expedite their exit. Your body needs time to break down the THC. While eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and remaining hydrated might help, the effects are generally minimal.

You’ll find THC detox kits and remedies all over the internet. Primarily, they’ll suggest drinking lots of water to dilute urine. You’ll then be instructed to use creatinine, vitamin B12, or another herbal supplement to veil the dilution. 

None of these methods have been proven as reliable, so we do not advise spending your money on them. Additionally, drinking too much water and/or consuming too many vitamins in a short period can be hazardous to your health. 

Edibles Versus Inhalation

The difference between how long edible THC stays in your system compared to inhalation can often be negligible. However, these variances might be worth exploring.

It takes longer for medical marijuana edibles to enter your system because they must be digested and metabolized in order to release their infused THC. Conversely, the THC enters your bloodstream immediately after inhaling or vaping due to the streamlined gateway through your lungs and capillaries. 

Thus, inhaling or vaping medical marijuana impacts you immediately but is processed faster by your body. Alternatively, the onset effect of edibles are slower to process, as they first need to travel through your digestive tract. 

Stay Informed

Laws remain inconsistent across the US, leading to conflicts between job-mandated drug tests and marijuana consumption for medical purposes. It is the symptom of a problem that stems from prohibition at the federal level.

Knowing how to protect yourself as a medical marijuana patient is essential. Even if the ethics of these tests can be questionable, remaining informed as medical marijuana inches toward federal legality may prove vital.

To the above points, check out our resources page to remain informed on all things medical marijuana.

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