How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your System: Sticking To The Facts

Currently, we are at a tipping point in marijuana legislation in the US. The fight is going federal, with several states buying the idea of legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes and some for recreational use. However, like with most contentious issues in the Federation, change is slow and gradual.

The consensus under US Federal Law and State Law in most states stipulates the prohibition of marijuana use. Being indicating, the law encourages acts that seek to deprive marijuana users of many prime opportunities—chief of which is an exciting job offer.

Aside the use of spec-ops helicopter surveillance to crack down on the cultivation of marijuana and cops searching the cars of suspicious individuals; there are several tests administered to ascertain if a person uses marijuana or not. It does not help that varied tests are using different methods with uncanny levels of accuracy. Many times these tests detect marijuana that has been used weeks before the test is administered. This presents three major problems,

  1. Each type of test has different levels of sensitivity. So an individual may pass test type A and not pass test type B
  2. Just maintaining abstinence a few hours or days before taking a test does very little to avoid being tested positive
  3. All of this is compounded by the fact that an individual may not have a decent time spacing between knowledge of the test and actually taking the test

The obvious starting point for resolving these fundamental problems is to find an answer to the question, “How long does marijuana stay in the human system?” To be exact, there is no accurate answer (like 1+1 = 2) to this question, as we would soon find out. Nonetheless, this article covers virtually all the vital information you should arm yourself with as regards this subject matter.

Testing For Marijuana

Marijuana by itself is a cocktail of substances. The primary psychoactive substance in the mix is tetrahydrocannabinol. Its short form is THC. After a person uses marijuana, THC remains in the body or the body metabolizes THC to other constituents.

When you are tested for marijuana use, the aim of the test is to identify THC or THC-metabolites (products of THC metabolism) in your body. With that said, you should know that the rate of THC metabolism for everybody is not the same. Two major factors influence THC metabolism:

  • Frequency of usage: Light users will see their THC metabolite levels decrease faster than in heavy users who will often have substantial residue of THC in their body
  • The potency of marijuana: Not all marijuana has the same level of potency or hit. THC metabolism will be longer for marijuana with increased potency

Other factors that have a substantial effect on THC metabolism are exercise, an individual’s rate of metabolism, and percentage of body fat (THC is stored in fat cells).

Marijuana Tests

THC and its metabolites persist in the body in fluids and certain regions. Commercially feasible tests try to determine THC levels in either of the following:

  1. Saliva
  2. Urine
  3. Blood
  4. Hair Follicles

Accordingly, tests are classified based on the biomaterial tested. Of the four ensuing types, urine test is the most common. The main draws are that it is inexpensive, are considerably effective, and have a long window of detection.

The major reason for its ability to ascertain marijuana use across a relatively longer detection window is that the test aims to detect a THC metabolite, not THC itself. Thus, even after the body has broken down or metabolized THC, it detects the product of the metabolism. Consequently, it is relatively more challenging to pass this test.

Blood and Saliva tests are the other common types. A saliva test is more convenient to administer but is infamous for being unreliable. Hair follicle test is reliable but is not commonly used because of its inhibitive cost.

Common Methods of Marijuana Use

In the previous section, we described the factors that influenced THC metabolism and in effect the efficiency of marijuana tests. (If you missed it, the major factors are frequency of use and potency of the marijuana consumed). In this section, we rewind the clock further back to ascertain the major factor that influences how much of the THC and in effect THC-metabolites end up in your system.

This factor relates to the way marijuana is used by an individual. In general, individuals use marijuana in either of two ways: smoking or oral ingestion. The way marijuana is used by an individual reflects in the volume of THC and THC metabolites that are accumulated in the body after use. Therefore, whether you smoke or orally ingest marijuana is critical to understanding how long marijuana stays in the human system.


Smoking is by far the most common way of using marijuana. It is also the fastest way to ramp up THC level. However, its rapid buildup does not match its rate of clearance.


  • THC levels begin to spike after the very first puff of marijuana
  • For a single puff, THC reaches peak levels at approximately 9 minutes after the puff
  • For multiple puffs, THC reaches peak levels at just under a minute before taking the last puff

Average THC Levels after Smoking Marijuana

Time Elapsed After Smoking Marijuana Percentage Drop of THC Levels
After 15 minutes 60% of peak THC levels remain
After 30 minutes 20% of peak THC levels remain
After a couple of hours THC concentration drop to ng/ml levels

It is important to note that the values of buildup and average THC levels after smoking marijuana may vary in direct proportion to how deep users inhale during smoking.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your System? Does THC Levels Drop Below the Minimum Detection Threshold After A While?

The minimum detection threshold for most tests is 0.5 ng/ml. In other words, 0.5 ng/ml is the least amount of THC that must be present in the system for a test to be positive.

  • For low-dose marijuana users, levels fell to under the detection threshold after 3 to 12 hours
  • For high-dose marijuana users, levels fell to under the detection threshold after 6 to 27 hours

It is important to note that the fall is expected to be considerably slower in those who smoke marijuana regularly.

Oral Ingestion

Not a lot of people orally ingest marijuana as those who smoke marijuana. Nonetheless, the numbers are substantial. In general, THC levels rise much slower after oral ingestion than after smoking. Regular heavy use certainly influences the rates of accumulation and clearance of THC and its metabolites. However, in comparison with smoking, regular use does not heavily skew the rates.

In this section, we discuss the findings of two experiments undertaken to identify THC levels after oral ingestion of marijuana. In one of the experiments, participants were given 20mg THC cookies. After oral ingestion, blood THC levels peaked after about 1 to 5 hours.

In the other experiment, participants consumed 10mg THC capsules orally. After consumption, THC levels began to spike almost immediately. Furthermore, after consumption, THC levels peaked after 1 to 2 hours.

How Long After Orally Ingesting Marijuana, Does THC Levels Drop Below the Minimum Detection Threshold?

  • THC – Up to 25 hours
  • THC metabolites (principally THC-COO) – Up to 50 hours

Types of Tests Used To Detect Marijuana

  1. Saliva Test

The main draw for saliva test is that it is easy to administer. It is often the test of choice for employers who opt to test their employees routinely. This presents a conundrum for employees who use marijuana because these routine tests are usually scheduled randomly and may come as an unpleasant surprise.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Saliva?

12 to 24 hours. Consequently, the saliva test is relatively easier to pass.

  1. Hair Follicle Test

The hair test is the gold standard of all marijuana tests. Its detection window is the longest and so is used for jobs that require special clearance or highly sensitive jobs. Nonetheless, it is the most expensive test of the four test types, and so is not commonly used.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Hair?

Up to 90 days (or 3 months).

  1. Blood Test

The blood test is reliable and is arguably the second most common type of marijuana test. Part of its appeal is that it is difficult for users to get around it, as there is no definite detection window. The reason for the difficulty in pegging a value to the detection window is because, among all four tests, the blood test is most influenced by the factors that affect THC metabolism.

If you missed the factors mentioned above, they include, an individual’s rate of metabolism, how often one uses marijuana, the average quantity of marijuana consumed, the way an individual uses marijuana, percentage of body fat amongst others.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Blood?

Up to 90 days. In reality, it may be longer for frequent users.

  1. Urine Test

This is by far the most commonly administered marijuana test. Like the blood test, it is difficult to game the test, and so the test does not have a definite detection window. Also, like blood test, it is also influenced by factors that affect THC metabolism. The reason why urine test has a higher adoption rate than blood test is that it is the cheaper alternative and is relatively more convenient for many.

The urine test is reliable because it does not detect THC, it detects the product or metabolite of THC metabolism. THC metabolism takes place in the liver, and a major product of THC breakdown is THC-COOH or Carboxy-THC (either should work in informal speak as the more technical nomenclature—11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol—is a long shot).

Therefore, quite after THC may have fallen to low levels, Carboxy-THC remains in tangible quantity to score positive in a test.

How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your Urine?

  • *Occasional users: Up to 4 days
  • *Regular users: Up to 10 days
  • Frequent users: Up to 70 days

* represents estimates that may be skewed considerably by factors that affect THC metabolism

How to Get Marijuana Out Of Your System

At this point, it should be pristinely clear that if you want to get weed out of your system, you have to stop consuming marijuana. There is no getting around that. Now that we know how long does marijuana stay in your system, it is important to maintain the tempo and get your THC level down slowly when you quit consuming marijuana, though it can be understandably difficult.

For some, it may be more desirable to maintain their habit and try to game the tests. Unfortunately, over the years, these tests have become for formidable to beat. The simple trick of taking in lots of fluid to dilute the urine to skew urine test results is no longer effective. Tampering with your hair to game hair follicle tests is ineffective and unsafe.

That is just one side of the equation. The extended range of detection time is of big concern now. Urine tests detect the metabolic product of THC breaks down. The barrage of factors that influence THC levels also renders virtually all attempts to get nicotine out of your system ineffective.

Therefore, the safest, effective, and sustainable way to get marijuana out of your system necessitates you to:

  • Stop consuming marijuana
  • Free yourself of the desire to use marijuana
  • Avoid harmfully and complicated solutions
  • Put off spending loads of money finding ineffective methods to rid your body of marijuana

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