Marijuana is an illicit drug in most countries and frequently tested for by employers. This often leads users to wonder just how long marijuana stays in your system. The answer to this question relies on understanding how cannabis is processed by the body as well as what drug tests detect.
On the first count, marijuana contains cannabinoids, the two best-known being THC and CBD. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high’ effect of marijuana, while CBD is more popular for its medical benefits. Drug tests are checking for THC. You can safely take hemp-derived CBD and pass a drug test. On the other hand, CBD is non-psychoactive, available as gummies and oils, and used to treat anxiety, pain, insomnia, and other medical conditions.
Once you ingest marijuana, its components do not stay inside your body for long. The cannabinoids can be stored 2 to 4 weeks in your body. This duration, however, varies in different people. Below is how cannabinoids are absorbed, metabolized, and excreted. This knowledge will help you understand how long marijuana stays in your system.
Marijuana has to be absorbed into your bloodstream and travel to the receptors for it to function. Your method of using marijuana affects how it functions in your body and how long it takes to start working. It also affects the absorption, metabolism, and elimination of the THC or CBD.
Once you administer marijuana orally, the levels of cannabinoids are at a maximum concentration in blood plasma three to four hours afterward. When you smoke, the levels in your blood are high within a half hour. This difference is due to the absorption of the THC or CBD being slowed in the digestive tract.
When you smoke the cannabis, the alveoli in your lungs are responsible for absorption. They offer a large surface area for that absorption, and passage to your bloodstream is fast because of continuous breathing. Inhaling is the quickest method for the absorption of cannabinoids.
In the case of oral ingestion, THC and CBD are absorbed into your bloodstream in your intestines. They then pass through the hepatic portal system to your liver.
The enzymes that assist in the metabolism of CBD and THC are the cytochrome P450 isoenzymes. Examples of these enzymes are CYP2C19 and CYP3A4. The cytochrome P450 isoenzymes carry out metabolism through oxidation.
Cannabinoids are easily stored in your fatty tissues for about one month. During this period, they are released into your bloodstream in small bits that are a little therapeutic.
Once they are released, they are metabolized further in the renal system. The same enzymes are used for their metabolism in the renal system. During metabolism, cannabinoids are broken down to metabolites such as 7-hydroxy-cannabidiol.
This process of metabolism of marijuana reduces the amount of CBD or THC that is available to help the body. Most of the cannabinoids you ingested will not be transported throughout your body but eliminated instead.
A large amount of orally ingested marijuana and metabolites are excreted in feces and urine. When smoking cannabis, on the other hand, most of the CBD and THC are taken up by the bloodstream and delivered to receptors.
Either way, though, not all the marijuana you ingest is metabolized. The amount of THC or CBD in your body can potentially reduce by half within a day of ingestion. This timeframe, however, is an estimation. It may vary in different people depending on factors such as:
Body weight –people with higher body mass indexes may experience a longer half-life of cannabinoids as compared to people who burn fat faster.
Personal lifestyle –active people burn fat faster and so will get rid of cannabinoids from their body faster than sedentary people. Also, eating foods rich in fiber helps to excrete cannabinoids from the body through bowel movements.
Amount and frequency of consumption –if you consume much marijuana, and more frequently, it will take more time to clear from your system as compared to someone who rarely consumes marijuana.
Individual biochemistry –each person’s system is different. The metabolism of cannabinoids can, therefore, vary in people of the same BMI with the same lifestyle.
Excretion of cannabinoids is similar to that of fats. You execrete fats in your feces, and so cannabinoids as well. The two travel together because cannabinoids in your body collect in your fat cells. When removed from the body, they are removed together too. This dependency also explains why cannabinoids may stay longer in the systems of people with excess body fat.
As you can see, the question of how long marijuana stays in your system is too complex to give a one-size-fits-all answer. 2 to 4 weeks is a fair rough estimate but shouldn’t be considered a sure bet. To further complicate things, how long a drug test will pick up marijuana also varies based on the test type.