How Long Does Marijuana Stay in Your System?

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis plant1. The plant contains the chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), whose effects might wear off within a few hours from consumption, but THC could be detectable when testing for marijuana weeks later.2 Marijuana detection times typically depend on a range of factors, from the type of test used (shortest detection period for urine testing and longest for hair testing) to the frequency of smoking.

Eliminating marijuana from the system is not always a short and easy process, so you may want to consider seeking professional help for you or your loved ones, especially if you’re struggling with marijuana addiction. Additionally, it may also be helpful to learn more about all the important aspects of detecting marijuana in your system and what marijuana drug tests typically entail.

testing for marijuana metabolites in your system

How Is Marijuana Processed in the Body?

The most common way of consuming marijuana is by inhalation. When it is smoked, THC is quickly absorbed through the lungs and marijuana enters the bloodstream in minutes. When it is taken orally, THC does not reach the bloodstream for approximately 1.5-3 hours. Then, bound to the blood proteins, THC travels through the body, reaching the brain, heart, and fat, and there it is absorbed into body tissues. In that process, it may damage various organs and have negative effects on the brain. At first, this process is quite quick, but then the release of THC back into the bloodstream and to the liver takes more time.2

Additionally, the liver can break down THC into the water-soluble marijuana metabolites which are excreted through urine before reaching body tissues. THC tends to be stored in fatty tissues and can be eliminated from there as well.2

Factors That Affect Marijuana Detection Times

Marijuana detection is dependent on numerous variables, as well as each individual’s case. If, for example, somebody you know has passed a marijuana drug test shortly after consumption, it does not mean that it is a standard time period. Every patient has an individual experience.

Some of the factors may include:2

  • Test type and sensitivity: There 4 main types of tests – hair, saliva, urine, and blood. Their sensitivity differs, meaning that saliva, urine, and blood tests provide just a short history of consumption (up to a few days), whereas hair testing can show up to 90 days of it.
  • Height and weight and, more importantly, body fat: A person who has more fat tends to metabolize THC slowly.
  • Metabolism: Having a slow metabolism affects the period of marijuana excretion.
  • Sex: Females face slower plasma clearance than men.
  • Hydration: While there is no conclusive evidence, it might be possible that dehydration is connected to the slower excretion of marijuana.
  • Frequency of consumption: Depending on whether marijuana use is infrequent (once a week), regular (several times a week), or chronic (daily), marijuana drug tests may be able to detect THC for longer periods of time.

The Presence of Marijuana in Your System

The duration of marijuana in different body parts varies, which is why it may be hard to determine how long marijuana stays in your system. There are 4 main parameters used for testing for marijuana – hair, blood, saliva, and urine.2

  • When it comes to hair, its life span can be 4 months to 4 years long. Since it usually grows 1cm monthly, 3cm can show up to 90 days of marijuana consumption history.4 This is the longest marijuana detection time and is only possible through hair samples. However, THC is less likely to stay that long in hair with short-term consumption.4
  • Blood tests for marijuana detection are rarely used. The reason is that marijuana does not stay in the bloodstream for a very long time, so the test is not reliable.
  • Saliva testing for marijuana is getting more popular, but the detection time is up to 3 days.
  • Urine testing for marijuana is the most common one. Marijuana stays in urine for up to 72 hours. Urinary concentrations of THC are very difficult to interpret due to the dosage of THC ingested, frequency of use, the timing of urine collection relative to last exposure to marijuana, and an individual’s hydration state. Therefore, the detection of THC metabolites in the urine is only an indication of past marijuana consumption and is not related to the degree of intoxication or impairment.

Marijuana Detection Through Drug Tests

Apart from observation and self-reporting, marijuana drug tests are crucial for the detection of marijuana in your system. There are various marijuana tests, including blood, urine, saliva, and hair testing.

Marijuana Hair Tests

Marijuana hair tests are the least intrusive option and their advantage is that they provide information over a long period of time, up to 90 days. THC enters hair as it grows, so hair tests offer an insight into the longest history of marijuana consumption. The hair is easy to store and taking a sample isn’t invasive.4

On the other side, hair tests don’t detect short-term consumption and work much better when it comes to regular consumption. A hair test doesn’t recognize marijuana presence in the first 3-5 days of ingestion since that is the time needed for the hair to emerge.4

The test may also be faulty due to air pollution and the use of shampoos and other hair products. The concentration of melanin may affect the marijuana hair test as well. This means that dark-haired people are more likely to have higher levels of THC detected.4 However, these tests are very reliable and are often used for employment and criminal records.

Marijuana Urine Tests

Testing for marijuana using urine samples is fairly common. The sample is easy to collect and the test is reliable for short-term detection and recent use. Marijuana detection time in urine is 2-3 days.4 Many factors affect their accuracy, such as:3

  • Dosage.
  • Duration/frequency of consumption.
  • Metabolism rate.
  • Test sensitivity.
  • Test specificity.

Urine testing is not apt for a long-term use of marijuana, but it is very widespread for home tests. Despite being only the first step (as one should go to the laboratory to do thorough tests if the home test is positive), urine tests are very helpful for detecting marijuana in your system. Home tests will be positive 1-3 hours after marijuana consumption and they could continue to show a positive result for up to 7 days.5 Parameters that can affect them are5:

  • The way you did the test.
  • The way you stored the test or urine sample.
  • What the person ate or drank before taking the test.
  • Any other prescription or over-the-counter drugs the person may have taken before the test.

Marijuana Blood Tests

Marijuana blood tests are mostly used for clinical purposes and in hospital emergency departments. However, other tests are typically preferred to this one, as THC is difficult to measure in blood.4 Some data shows that THC could be detected in blood for 1-2 days after consumption.6

Marijuana Saliva Tests

Marijuana saliva tests are more efficient than urine at detecting recent use but are less effective after three days.4 THC is best detected in saliva within 5-48 hours of consumption.6 This type of testing isn’t invasive and grows more popular.

All of these tests refer to those who consumed marijuana. Individuals who inhaled its smoke should not worry about failing a drug test. It is very unlikely for a test to be positive for people who breathed the smoke secondhand. The reason is that there is very little THC when somebody who smokes exhales.1

How to Get Marijuana out of the System?

Cleansing marijuana from your system or the so-called marijuana detoxification is a process in which THC is secreted out of the body. It is a process that depends on the frequency of marijuana consumption, its dosage, and even on your gender.7 Despite many hypothetical shortcuts to getting marijuana out of your body, it is important to know that the only way to be sure that it is gone is by not consuming it. In order to stop, it is vital to seek professional help.

When it comes to the time needed, it has been reported that the average plasma clearance rates are 11.8± 3L/hour for women and 14.9±3.7L/hour for men.7 On the other hand, some data shows that the marijuana detoxification time was 36L/hour for those who irregularly consume cannabis and 60 L/hour for those who regularly do.7

Metabolism has the main role here since it breaks down the ingredients of marijuana. Marijuana’s half-life is the time needed for half of the drug to be metabolized and eliminated from your body. The half-life of it for an infrequent consumption is 1.3 days and for frequent one is 5-13 days.7

Some individuals drink a lot of water in order to cleanse the marijuana out of the body, but only 20% of THC is excreted in urine and more than 65% in the feces. Most of the cannabis will be excreted within 5 days of consumption.7 That is why the only safe way to get marijuana out of your system is to stop consuming it with the guidance of experts. The goal is not only to pass the drug tests but to get the needed help.

Quitting Marijuana

When a person decides to quit smoking marijuana, there is a chance they may experience marijuana withdrawal symptoms. Normally, they are mild for cannabis withdrawal. However, everyone’s experience is unique to their own condition. For some patients, even mild symptoms are hard to deal with.8 Therefore, the safest way to quit marijuana and treat its effects is with the help of professionals.

Some symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may include:8

  • Anxiety and a general feeling of fear and dissociation.
  • Restlessness.
  • Irritability.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Disturbed sleep, sometimes marked by vivid dreams.
  • Gastrointestinal upsets.
  • Night sweats.
  • Tremor.

Getting Help for Marijuana Addiction

The most important thing is to seek professional help or recognize if your loved one needs this kind of support. Getting specialized addiction treatment is a safe way to recovery, and there are many treatment options available, including one-on-one sessions and group therapy.American Addiction Centers, a trusted care provider with specialized facilities for drug and alcohol treatment, is here to make this process easier and help you learn more about treatment. We can verify your insurance coverage and discuss possible payment options while you’re on a phone with one of our caring admissions navigators. This way, you will know immediately whether you are in the network or not. Our admissions navigators are more than happy to help.