Cannabis lotions, creams or other topicals are available for purchase at many legal medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Florida. There are also certain CBD based products made from hemp that are already legal throughout the country and are available for purchase without a medical marijuana card and can be offered in stores that are not certified by the state. It is important to research any cannabis or hemp based product before using it and certainly talk to your doctor about whether THC lotions are right for you.
One of the significant concerns in Florida about legalized medical marijuana is that employers can still discriminate against employees that test positive for drug tests for THC even if that employee is a legal Florida medical marijuana card holder. Anyone that has already received their medical marijuana card or is considering getting one should clearly understand their employers polices towards marijuana and drug testing.
A topical lotion to sooth pain may seem very different than the inhalation of marijuana concentrated extract vapor or consuming an edible, however the question still remains as to whether the application of a cannabis lotion could result in a positive drug test. Could a Florida resident with their medical marijuana card lose their job simply for applying a marijuana based cream?
First things first. For those unfamiliar, topicals refer to a wide range of cannabis-infused products. They come in an array of forms — lotions, salves, balms, ointments and sprays — and are applied to the skin to provide a localized effect. Topical use is typically not intoxicating, and rather is considered therapeutic, such as massages with cannabis lotions.
Is there a risk of THC absorbing through the skin and causing a positive result in a marijuana drug test?
“Most likely the answer is no,” said Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“THC is lipid soluble so one would expect very little THC to enter the bloodstream via transdermal delivery,” Armentano told The Cannabist via email. He is deputy director of NORML and recipient of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship and author of numerous articles on drug testing.
To get more information on topicals and the bloodstream, I reached out to Dahlia Mertens, CEO of Mary Jane’s Medicinals, a Colorado company making topicals in Telluride since 2010.
“The cannabinoids in topicals do not actually enter the bloodstream (that is why topicals do not get you high), instead they interact with the peripheral nervous system,” Mertens said in an email. “As a result, people that use our topicals have not tested positive for THC in drug tests.”
So, in Merten’s business experience, none of her customers have tested positive in a drug test from her topical products.
However, the makers of some topical products, like the transdermal THC patches from Colorado-based Mary’s Medicinals assert the product is delivered directly to the bloodstream.
Could the transdermal THC patches cause a positive drug test? To get more information, I contacted analytical chemist Noel Palmer, former chief scientist at Mary’s Medicinals. He is currently chief scientist at Colorado extracts company Evolab and recipient of the 2014 Americans For Safe Access 2014 Researcher of the Year award. (Disclosure: I also worked for Mary’s Medicinals in 2015, but am no longer affiliated with the company.)
Palmer says via email: “THC alone and by itself will not permeate through the skin into the bloodstream, just as most drugs won’t. The skin is designed to keep things out, and it does a really good job at doing this.”