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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  

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.

— Concerned Sister

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
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.”

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Lorena Cupcake on Weedmaps

Published: July 19, 2021

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