Does Topical CBD Oil Enter The Bloodstream

While I'm not convinced of the real-world utility of testing anyone for cannabis, I can understand the trepidation when it comes to potentially failing a random drug test. Do cannabinoids from topicals enter the bloodstream? Are you afraid of how to pass a weed drug test if you use topicals? Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis A male driver was checked during a traffic stop. A blood sample was collected 35min later and contained 7.3ng/mL THC, 3.5ng/mL 11-hydroxy-THC and 44.6ng/mL 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC. The subject claimed to have used two commercially produced products topically that contained 1.7ng and 102ng THC per mg, r …

Do cannabinoids from topicals enter the bloodstream?

Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago” in 2019, has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they’re turning that experience into a monthly advice column, Ask a Budtender. Got a question for Cupcake? Submit your questions to [email protected]

Dear Cupcake,

Do you know if cannabinoid-infused topicals, such as Papa & Barkley’s topical, go into your bloodstream? I’m asking for my sister who works for the government. She has a lot of physical aches and they want her to do surgery but she would rather experiment with different products.

Dear Concerned Sister,

Before I answer your question, I want to cover a few points I hope we all agree with. Drug testing for cannabis and other drugs is wildly inaccurate, based on false premises and applied inequitably among members of the workforce. Rather than accurately weeding out unfit workers, drug testing is just another means of hyper-surveillance and hiring discrimination used against the working class.

With popular track star Sha’Carri Richardson recently suspended from competition in advance of the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis use, there’s been an increase in conversation calling out drug testing as yet another racist relic of the war on drugs.

While I’m not convinced of the real-world utility of testing anyone for cannabis, I can understand the trepidation when it comes to potentially failing a random drug test. While everyone’s body metabolizes and eliminates THC at different rates, someone who smokes multiple times a day may have their drug use detected on a urine screening up to one month after putting down the pipe. While the actual time elapsed before a clean screen may be much shorter, that uncertainty can make it impossible for those subject to random drug testing to use cannabis without worrying they’ll lose their livelihoods.

Can cannabis topicals show up on drug tests?

I have good news for those of you who only use topicals, via Dr. Bonnie Goldstein. She’s the Medical Director of Canna-Centers, a California-based medical practice, and was kind enough to answer my questions. “Topical preparations have minimal penetration through the layers of the skin, therefore effects are limited to the local area where it is applied,” she explained.

That means that the cannabinoids in topicals don’t reach the bloodstream, much less the liver, and their metabolites won’t show up on any type of drug test: urine, saliva, even hair or blood. There’s no reason to forgo topical THC or CBD with even the most stringent drug-testing policies in place.

Applying infused topicals to sore muscles will not cause a positive drug test. (Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

“Both compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-itch properties when applied to the skin,” Dr. Goldstein said. “So many people may benefit from topical cannabis, including those with arthritis, post-injury pain, neuropathy, muscle spasms, and those with rashes such as eczema or psoriasis.”

What’s the difference between topical and transdermal cannabis products?

To truly answer this question, we also need to discuss transdermal products, which often appear right alongside topicals in the form of gels, compounds or — most often — drug-delivery patches. To explain how transdermal products interact with our body, I spoke to Dr. Rachel Knox, who advances insight into the endocannabinoid system along with her family of doctors. According to the cannabinoid medicine specialist, “Transcutaneous — or transdermal — cannabinoid products, such as a patch, are designed to deliver cannabinoids deeper into the skin where they can enter the systemic circulation and reach more distant tissue targets.”

These products contain chemical penetration enhancers, ingredients that weaken the skin’s barrier to allow cannabinoids and terpenes to pass through the epidermis, or outermost layer of skin, into the blood-vessel rich dermis. Depending on what sort of patch you select, THC, CBD and/or CBN will circulate through your bloodstream, just like if you popped a gummy or hit a vape pen.

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Unfortunately, that means they could potentially show up on a drug test. “Regardless of the mechanism through which THC was consumed (e.g., through smoking, edibles, or transdermal patch), THC and its metabolites will behave the same once absorbed into the circulatory system,” Dr. Knox said.

While they’re not a good idea for anyone undergoing random drug testing, I recommended transdermal patches to many people during my time as a budtender. It’s an invaluable resource for those who need consistent, long-lasting pain relief to supplement or replace opioid painkillers. Patches are frequently used by cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, who may not have the ability to tolerate edibles or inhalation. Along with RSO, it’s a potential alternative to edibles for folks with severe food allergies.

Tips for using topicals and transdermals

If you don’t want a nasty surprise on your next drug screening, it’s vital to know the difference between topical and transdermal products. While they sometimes appear in similar packaging, or in the same section on dispensary menus, they’re meant to serve different purposes.

Before applying any product to your skin, Dr. Knox recommends hopping in the shower for a scrub. “Exfoliation can do a number of things to likely improve product absorption,” she said, such as removing dry and dead skin, unclogging pores, removing chemical agents that may prevent or diminish absorption, and improving blood circulation throughout and under the skin.”

After drying off, topical lotions or balms can be applied directly to the affected area, like an arthritic ankle or a strained bicep. While cannabinoids won’t reach the bloodstream and get you high, they’ll decrease inflammation and pain in that localized area. Don’t allow pets to lick your skin while wearing any product containing THC, as it can be dangerous to many animals.

Topical THC and CBD products can be a great option for those suffering from inflammation, arthritis, and other skin and muscle issues. (Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

While some topicals are in neutral carrier lotions, many combine THC and CBD with potent pain-killing ingredients like menthol and borneol to create a tingly effect similar to Tiger Balm or Icy Hot. If you have a preference, pay close attention to product descriptions, or ask your budtender for guidance.

Transdermal products appear most often as gels, sometimes contained in an easy-to-dose applicator pen, or as patches, similar to a nicotine or birth control patch. If you don’t want to use the whole dosage of a transdermal patch at once, they can generally be cut into halves, quarters or even smaller pieces.

Since the active ingredients need to penetrate the skin barrier to reach blood vessels, all transdermal formulations work best when applied to a flat area with pronounced, surface-level veins. The inside of the wrist and top of the foot are the two most popular locations.

Dr. Goldstein of Canna-Centers reminded me to watch out for the chemical penetration enhancers that allow the cannabinoids in transdermal products to penetrate deeper into tissue. “Patients should always check the ingredients on these products to make sure that they are not allergic to these chemicals, and to also make sure that they are safe for their particular condition.”

In addition, don’t forget that that innocent-looking transdermal will actually get you high. I’ve tried a patch myself, and despite having a high tolerance, I noticed intoxicating effects within twenty minutes.

“I only recommend transdermal products to patients who have had some experience with cannabis,” Dr. Goldstein told me. “It is important to know how you react to THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids before applying a transdermal product.”

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Need advice on how to incorporate cannabis into your lifestyle? Write Cupcake at [email protected]

Do cannabinoids from topicals enter the bloodstream?

Are you afraid of how to pass a weed drug test if you use topicals? Cannabinoids are the naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis Sativa plant. The most common cannabinoids include; delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC and CBD both come from the same plant, they differ based on their effects on our endocannabinoid system. THC has a psychoactive effect (gets you high) while CBD doesn’t.

THC and CBD today are used widely for recreation and medical purposes, and there is evidence that these substances can help alleviate a wide range of medical conditions. For this reason, companies have emerged to produce CBD and THC products that relieve various conditions, these products are present in many forms but are popular as topical products.

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CBD topical products include cream, lotion, balm, or salve infused with CBD or THC that you apply on your skin. Many people have assumptions that such tropical products enter the bloodstream but that is not the case. THC or CBD from topical products helps relieve pain or inflammation at the point of application on the skin without entering the bloodstream.

CBD topical products continue to gain traction as more study is done on their health benefits. Research carried out by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information published on PubMed search suggests that topical CBD products could help skin disorders, pain, and muscle relief. Moreover, The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) has established that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may aid the treatment of acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Transdermal cannabis

Transdermal cannabis penetrates past the first layer of the skin (epidermis) and into the dermis that contains blood vessels to allow THC into the bloodstream. Transdermal cannabis is administered on the skin where it penetrates into the systemic circulation to deliver THC to the point of action. The result is that it can cause intoxication—but not as much as if you smoked weed, and possibly a positive drug test depending on the level of THC in the product and the frequency of use.

CBD Products and Drug test

Perhaps the biggest question today in the minds of individuals using topical CBD and THC products is whether it can lead to a positive drug test. It is a relevant and legitimate worry since different states and companies have independent drug policies. In the United States, hemp-derived CBD products are legal federally and in most states. Hemp CBD contains a low-level THC of less than 0.3% and has no psychoactive effects. On the other hand, marijuana-derived are illegal federally but legal in some states. It is advisable to know your state’s CBD/THC products policy if you intend to use them.

If you were to take a drug test amidst the use of weed topical (transdermal weed), you might need to consider other options to get your system cleaned up of THC to be sure of a negative result. That leads you to try and find out how to get weed out of the system. Fortunately, there are ways to do that; the quickest one is to use detox products.

Can you receive a positive drug test if you use CBD/THC products?

When you apply cannabis topicals such as lotions, balms, or creams to your skin, the active cannabinoids absorb into your skin and interact with the cannabinoid receptors. As a result, they restore balance to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to provide relief. While the THC in these products penetrates your skin, it does not penetrate deep enough to reach your bloodstream. As such, it will not get into your brain to make you high, and importantly you will not test positive after a drug test.

If you suspect that you would test positive for THC for whatever reason during a test — which most likely would be a urine test, it would be best to consider exploring other means of how to pass a urine test, for example, using synthetic urine.

THC in saliva, urine, and hair follicles

Topical products such as cream, lotion, balm, or salve do not enter the bloodstream. Hence, it is unlikely to be found in your urine, saliva, or hair follicles. However, that is not the case with transdermal patches that allow THC to penetrate the bloodstream. If you use transdermal weed products, THC will likely be detected in your system.

Weed enters the saliva only when smoked or ingested–this means that there will be no THC in your saliva if you use topical products like weed lotion. However, products like RSO oil for pain that you can consume both orally and topically can lead to the presence of THC in your saliva.

THC in the saliva is detectable for up to 36 hours if you are an occasional user and up to 29 days if you are a chronic user.

THC is detectable in urine for:

  • Occasional users: 3 days
  • Moderate users: 5 to 7 days
  • Chronic users (daily): 10 to 15 days
  • Chronic heavy users (multiple times a day): more than 30 days

THC metabolites in urine can be detectable for several weeks because they are fat-soluble and take a long time to leave the body.

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When weed reaches hair follicles via small blood vessels, traces of THC remain in the hair. This can be detectable for up to 90 days after use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will hemp lotion show in drug tests?

The short answer is NO. Hemp-derived CBD has a low THC level, plus the cannabinoid will not penetrate the bloodstream.

How long will marijuana stay in blood?

Mayo Medical Laboratories estimates that weed will stay in the blood for:

  • Single Use 3 Days
  • Moderate Use 5 Days
  • Heavy Use (Daily) 10 Days
  • Chronic Use 30 Days

Jobs that don’t drug test near me

While the legalization of weed products gains traction, there is still a reality of having to take a pre-employee drug test.

At least 56% of employers in the US ask for a pre-employee drug test. Here are some jobs that do not require drug tests:

  • Target
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods
  • Petsmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Starbucks

How long does it take THC level to drop?

Various factors determine how long THC level drops in your body. They include your age, gender, and body mass index (BMI) which determines how your body processes and metabolizes the drug. Other factors are how much, how frequent and how potent your weed is.

How long does weed stay in hair and nails?

Weed can stay in hair for up to 3 months and 3-6 months in the nails.

Can you absorb THC oil through skin?

The skin absorbs THC oil and allows THC to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). However, it doesn’t go past the outermost layer of the skin into the bloodstream.


Topical CBD/THC products offer a perfect opportunity and alternatives to be explored in both the recreational and medical fields. With ever-growing popularity, many people have turned to these products as the safest way to alleviate conditions such as muscle aches, joint pain, and skin inflammation. Topical products offer benefits in that they do not show positive drug tests except for transdermal products that penetrate the bloodstream. You consult with your doctor or cannabis clinician before you use THC/CBD products and research products to ensure you buy safe and reliable products.

Topical application of THC containing products is not able to cause positive cannabinoid finding in blood or urine

A male driver was checked during a traffic stop. A blood sample was collected 35min later and contained 7.3ng/mL THC, 3.5ng/mL 11-hydroxy-THC and 44.6ng/mL 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC. The subject claimed to have used two commercially produced products topically that contained 1.7ng and 102ng THC per mg, respectively. In an experiment, three volunteers (25, 26 and 34 years) applied both types of salves over a period of 3days every 2-4h. The application was extensive (50-100cm 2 ). Each volunteer applied the products to different parts of the body (neck, arm/leg and trunk, respectively). After the first application blood and urine samples of the participants were taken every 2-4h until 15h after the last application (overall n=10 urine and n=10 blood samples, respectively, for each participant). All of these blood and urine samples were tested negative for THC, 11-hydroxy-THC and 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC by a GC-MS method (LoD (THC)=0.40ng/mL; LoD (11-hydroxy-THC)=0.28ng/mL; LoD (THC-COOH)=1.6ng/mL;. LoD (THC-COOH in urine)=1.2ng/mL). According to our studies and further literature research on in vitro testing of transdermal uptake of THC, the exclusive application of (these two) topically applied products did not produce cannabinoid findings in blood or urine.

Keywords: Cannabinoids; Gaschromatography mass spectrometry; Hemp oil containing cremes; Topic.

Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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