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Cannabis Half Life Explained

by  | Jan 12, 2021 | Cannabis

If you’re a cannabis user, you’re likely familiar with how long the effects of your chosen strain and product last. In general, the effects of THC last only a few hours. Did you know, though, that even if you can’t feel it in your system, there’s a good chance that it’s still there, and it’s detectable? In this article, we’re going to take a look at the cannabis half life. Understanding this information can help you gain a greater understanding of just how long cannabis remains in your body after you use it.

What Is Cannabis Half Life?

Half-life refers to how long it takes for half of the number of THC metabolites in your system to disappear. The half-life depends significantly on how often you use cannabis and how much you consume. In general, the half-life of THC in an infrequent user is around 1.3 days, while the half-life in a heavy user is as long as 5 to 13 days.

What exactly does this mean? If you’re an infrequent user, it takes around 1.3 days for your body to eliminate half of the THC metabolites in your system. In another 1.3 days, half of those metabolites get eliminated, leaving a quarter of the original amount in your body. Depending on the test, it can take nearly two weeks for THC to be undetectable. If you’re a heavy user, on the other hand, it can take approximately a month.

How Your Body Metabolizes THC

When you ingest cannabis, whether you smoke, vape, or eat an edible, THC goes into your bloodstream first. Smoking and vaping result in almost immediate absorption, while edibles take a bit longer.

THC is lipophilic, meaning that it’s attracted to fat. After it goes into your bloodstream, it moves to your fat cells and vascularized tissues like your brain, liver, and heart. The process takes anywhere from 8 to 60 hours depending on your frequency of use.

Over time, THC moves back into your bloodstream to be eliminated by your body. It’s a gradual process that occurs slowly. For this reason, urine tests can detect THC long after your last use, even if you haven’t used cannabis within the last few days.

What Tests Detect THC?

There are several different tests that can detect THC in your system. Tests can check your:

  • Blood
  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Hair

Although blood tests can detect intoxication, they’re not used very often. The reason for this is because the cannabinoid moves out of your bloodstream quickly.

When testing for cannabis use, urine tests are the most common. The problem with these tests, however, is that they only show that you used cannabis recently. They don’t demonstrate irresponsible use or intoxication. Even in states where cannabis use is legal, many employers still reserve the right to terminate an employee based on a drug test result. Understanding the half-life of THC can therefore help you to plan, especially if your employer gives you a warning about an upcoming test.

The half-life of cannabis depends significantly on your frequency of use. Regardless of whether you use cannabis products recreationally or for medical purposes, understanding how long THC lingers in your system can be beneficial. While you can’t beat a drug test, you can plan a detox that ensures it’s all out of your system by the time your test rolls around.