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THCa, Drug Testing
October 19, 2023 By Wild Orchard Co.

Can Taking THCa Cause a Failed Drug Test Result to Happen?

You’ve likely noticed an influx of THCa products popping up on the market – in particular, ones that actually give you delta 9 THC rather than THCa at all, through the process of decarboxylation – basically, a fancy word for heating the raw THCa cannabinoid to a specific temperature to convert it into delta 9, thus activating its glorious psychoactive properties.  Now, THCa products are legal, even though many of them inevitably give you delta 9.  That’s a huge relief for people who live in parts of the country where weed remains illegal, as it is under federal law.  But, legality aside, there’s another factor that often gets glossed over, which is drug-testing.

THCa vs. Delta 9

First off, we need to get a bit deeper into the relationship between THCa (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as we know it still confuses many people.  Raw cannabis, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t contain THC – nor does it contain CBD, CBN, or any other cannabinoid as we know it.  Instead, it contains over 100 precursor cannabinoids, which are acidic forms of cannabinoids that don’t become the cannabinoids we know until they’re exposed to heat – a process known as decarboxylation.  When cannabinoids are decarboxylated, their chemical properties change, and they become new cannabinoids – like CBDA into CBD, and THCA into THC.

Now, THCa-based products like vapes and flower must be heated to be used.  For instance, to vaporize a vape oil, the THCa has to reach a certain temperature, and to enjoy flower, you have to heat it through smoking, vaporizing, or cooking.  This means that when you use THCa vapes, flower, or dabs, you’re not actually taking in any THCa at all, as the THCa has become delta 9 THC by the time it enters your system.  And, that delta 9 THC is the same THC that’s in marijuana.

Could THCa Products Make You Fail a Drug Test?

In short, yes.  Again, these products administer delta 9 THC, which is chemically identical to the THC that’s in weed.  So, basically, you’re just as likely to fail a drug test when using a THCa vape, flower, or concentrate product as you are when using marijuana.

Most drug tests aren’t even looking for actual weed at all, nor THC.  They’re looking for a metabolite called, “THC-COOH”.  This lingers in the body long after THC has metabolized.  THC-COOH is sort of the final stage of THC metabolization, and so, can last in the system for anywhere from a couple of days to a month after the last time you consumed THC, depending on how much has accumulated in your system.  Urine tests, being the most common drug tests used in the United States, are capable of detecting THC-COOH very effectively, and do not distinguish between whether that THC-COOH came from marijuana, or a legal hemp product labeled as THCa.

Are All Drug Tests Likely to Pick Up THCa Use?

Now, we talked about urine tests, which are the most commonly administered in the country.  They’re fast, inexpensive, and reliable, and the main type of drug test used for employment, probation, and sports.  There are other types of tests, however, so let’s see if they pick up your THCa usage like urine tests do.

  • Blood Tests: A blood test is usually used in a hospital, to test for drugs if a doctor suspects they may be a contributing factor to the symptoms that a patient is presenting. They only pick up THC in the blood if the person is actively high.
  • Saliva Tests: Saliva tests are more commonly used among law enforcement, and they show up to 10 hours of THC use.
  • Hair Tests: Hair tests can show 90 days’ worth of possible substance use, and can pick up THC, but are known for being expensive and producing false positives more often than drug tests, which is why they’re not used as often.

Basically, this means that any standard drug test can show that you have been using a THCa product.

Will I Definitely Fail a Drug Test if I’ve Recently Taken THCa?

Now, here’s where things get complicated.  Just because you’ve used a THCa vape, flower, or concentrate product recently doesn’t mean you’ll automatically fail, because a lot of variables go into determining how much THC-COOH can still be in your system.  Let’s elaborate.

  • The Last Time You Took THCa: Urine tests, like we said, can pick up THC-COOH for up to 60 days, as after that point, THC-COOH is usually eliminated from the system entirely. But, your body may clear THC-COOH in just a couple of days if you only took a small dose, and/or if you only took it extremely infrequently.
  • How Much THCa You Took: It’s simple – the higher the dose of THCa, the more THC-COOH is in the body, and for longer. This metabolite clears THC-COOH at the same pace no matter what, so the more is in your system, the longer it will take for the body to be totally rid of it.
  • How Often You Took THCa: If you’re a daily THCa user, then THC-COOH will accumulate in the body, and again, it clears at the same rate. So, if you were taking the cannabinoid every day, it will take longer to eliminate from the body than if you were taking it occasionally.
  • Your Metabolism: Some people naturally have faster metabolisms or slower metabolisms than others. The slower your metabolism, the longer it will take for your body to totally eliminate THC-COOH through the urine.
  • Your Health: Yes, your health can affect how long your body hangs onto THC-COOH. For instance, we know that when people are fighting an infection, their metabolism slows down, and they’re more likely to fail a drug test.
  • Other Cannabinoids You Took/Take: Something a lot of people don’t know is that basically all intoxicating cannabinoids that are found in hemp cause the body to produce the THC-COOH metabolite, which can lead to a failed drug test. This means that, for instance, if you’re taking THCa and delta 8 daily, that delta 8 is also adding to the likelihood of failing a test.

Is There a Way to Flush it Out of My System?

Many people ask if there’s a proven way to flush THC-COOH out of the system, as they may have a test coming up and don’t feel confident that they’re going to pass, otherwise.  We’ve heard of all kinds of “tricks,” like chugging water, taking zinc, and taking detox products, but the issue is that none of these products have ever been proven to be effective, and so we cannot recommend them as a solution.

With Drug-Testing, Always Play it Safe!

It’s simple: if you know that you’re going to be drug-tested soon, you should just avoid THCa products altogether, along with other intoxicating hemp products, regardless of if they’re legal or not.  When it comes to drug-testing, you don’t want to mess around, especially if something important like your job is on the line.  THCa can and almost certainly will cause a failed drug test result, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.