We’ve all had to do it at some point; take a marijuana test. And every time something like this comes up, the question of just how long does THC stay in the system, also comes up. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Nevertheless, here are the basics to THC and how long its stays in your system.
Most of us already know the answer to this, but just for the sake of keeping us all on the same page, THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, and actually refers to several different compounds within the cannabis plant. The THC we’re usually talking about when using the term ‘THC’, is delta-9 THC. Delta-9 doesn’t exist in high amounts in the cannabis plant, but rather is decarboxylated to this form from its prior form of THCA, which is the compound found in abundance in fresh plants.
THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) C22H30O4 is not psychoactive, but it decarbs to create delta-9 C₂₁H₃₀O₂, a psychoactive compound. Psychoactive means it has an effect on mood, cognition, and behaviors. It change the way a person feels. And it is this idea which has been the outward reasoning for cannabis’s illegalization, along with general stories of danger, which have never proven true. It’s known, however, to cause a sense of relaxation and euphoria, though for some people it’s more associated with anxiety and paranoia; highlighting how ultimately, different drugs affect different people, differently.
THC is schedule I in the Controlled Substances list on a federal level, meaning the federal government considers it only to be dangerous, with no medical value. On the other hand, 19 states already passed recreational legalizations measure, a 20th, South Dakota, did as well, but had it taken away by its governor (its up for ballot measure yet again this election season), and a 21st state, Minnesota, essentially went legal, but without a formal legalization measure.
Instead, it simply legalized the use of THC in edible – and other – products. Beyond this, nearly 40 states have full medical programs, also in contrast to the US government. And the majority of states in general allow for some kind of decriminalization.
In a showing that the US government does understand its position, despite moving incredibly slow to update regulation; Biden just announced a sweeping pardon for all those who were convicted on simple possession charges. However, the pardon came with no legal change, meaning already new arrests for these same crimes, have most definitely been made. With five more states putting forth ballot measures for recreational legalizations this election, it looks like the government needs to change tack immediately, or look weak amid its non-complying states. All while fending off lawsuits from new arrestees, for crimes just pardoned.
So how long does THC stay in the system?
This is where things become way more individualized. Although the effects of THC kick in from anywhere between a few minutes (when smoked or vaped) to about a half hour (when eaten) and only last a couple hours at the most, it stays in your system much longer than that.
While there are certainly some basic standards to go over, there isn’t one simple answer to the question, and each person will have to look at themselves, their bodies, and their lives, to try to establish what their own particular answer is. Plus, there are different options here. How long does THC stay in your system? Well, are we talking about how long its detectable in urine? Or in blood? Or in hair? Not only does each body work differently, but THC is detectable in these different places for different amounts of time.
Usually, if a person is undergoing a test, it’s a urine test, so when we talk about how long does THC stay in the system, we’re usually speaking of how long it shows up in your urine. It makes a big difference how much a person smokes in life, as heavy smokers can expect THC to stay around a bit longer. When someone who doesn’t usually smoke gets high, THC is detectable in urine for up to about three days, but again, this is not 100% specific.
For moderate users (not daily, but several times a week), THC is often detectable for closer to a week. Daily users might have THC in their systems for more like 10-15 days, while the super heaviest of smokers might be detectable for as long a month or more. These numbers are so non-specific though that depending on individual bodies, these times could be cut in half at each juncture, or even quartered, or perhaps lengthened by twice as much.
In terms of factors that have an effect on how long your own body might hold onto THC, consider that people with more body fat will likely retain it longer, as will people with more sedentary lifestyles, slower metabolisms, and overall higher usage levels. It can generally be expected (but not said for sure) that those with lower body fat, who get more exercise, and who metabolize faster in general, will probably get THC out of their systems faster.
What about those other tests?
Sure, you’ll probably just have a urine test, particularly if its for a job interview or random workplace testing, but there are other testing options. Hair tests are sometimes used to establish past usage of marijuana. Since hair stays around on your head for awhile, when THC gets into it, it also stays around for awhile. In fact, remember how I said a heavy user might be detectable for around a month in terms of urine? Well, even when their urine is clear after a month, their hair might tell a different story. THC can be detectable in the hair for several months.
Then there are blood tests. We don’t usually hear about THC blood tests, but because of new regulations in different states concerning driving under the influence of cannabis, THC blood tests are are getting more popular. They’re used particularly for driving incidences, as well as with other crimes. These tests are the most accurate, and are only looking for very recent use. THC leaves the blood stream within days, so these tests only test for use as recent as the last couple days.
Most people will likely never have a THC blood test done. Though this could change if more locations adopt and enforce road policies for THC. This does seem to be happening, though the reality is that research has shown lower levels of road issues in places with legalized cannabis.
Can I get it out faster?
When we ask how long THC stays in the system, we often want to know if there’ a way to get it out faster. Truth is, most products sold won’t do much for you, and that’s partly because of how THC stays in your system in the first place. It sticks around so long because its fat soluble, meaning its taken in by your fat cells. When something is taken in by fat cells, it means it can’t be flushed out with water. It’s stored in the form of its metabolite THC-COOH, and no matter how many water-based fluids you drink, you won’t wash it out of you.
On the other hand, sometimes the best that can be done, especially when taking a test, is to simply dilute the urine. This can indeed throw off tests if it appears the urine is too watered down, but it is a generally good way of making it appear like less THC is in the system. Please remember, it will do nothing to actually get it out faster, though.
What can I do?
If you really want to get it out, one of the best ways is through exercise, and this might be the only true way to speed up this process. Exercise burns fat, and fat holds THC. So if you burn off the fat, you’re burning out the THC too. If ever you want to shorten the amount of time THC is in your system, getting off your butt and moving around is the first thing to consider.
Of course, if you’re really concerned about having THC in your system, take yourself a break. If you’ve got something coming up that THC in the body won’t help with, just don’t use it for a while. The most surefire way to avoid worrying about the question of how long does THC stay in your system, is by eliminating the need to ask it.
If you’re thinking of trying the products out there, do so at your own risk. None should hurt you, but they likely won’t help much either. In fact, most methods involve drinking a lot of liquids, which just supports the water-it-down method. Detox pills and drinks really have no method for releasing THC from fat cells. Adulterants can easily throw off a test and make it invalid, and using someone else’s urine is tricky in its own way as it must be kept at the right temperature. (Besides the fact you have to sneak in someone else’s urine).
There are also more natural ways, like using pectin, cranberry juice, baking soda, and niacin. Though, none of these compounds are dangerous, they’re often taken in way larger amounts than what is considered normal or safe, and this can come with problems. Not only do none of the methods work by consensus, but baking soda, for example is a salt which can cause damage at high volumes, and pectin can force the body to rid itself of necessary nutrients. Neither of which is good for a person.
Just remember, if there really was a system that worked, we’d all be doing it. Instead, we’re sold gimmick after gimmick, proving only that this is an issue that many face, and not one that there is a workable answer for.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does THC stay in the body?
As stated throughout the article, it varies based on several different factors including how much you consumed, how often, how long it has been since the last time you used THC, your body weight, how much water you drink, and so on.
How long does THC stay in blood?
Blood tests can only accurately detect THC in the system for one to two days after consumption.
Will a hit of weed show up on a urine test?
It’s possible if you test within a couple days of taking that one hit, but it’s very unlikely still.
How long does it take to detox from cannabis?
Anywhere from a few days for sporadic users, up to six weeks for regular users.
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How long does THC stay in the system? It varies widely, and I’m sorry that that’s the best answer out there. If you’re in a situation where you need to know its not going to show up; get some exercise in, take a little break, and always assume it will take the longest amount of time for your circumstances, and not less. Just to be on the safe side.
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