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How Long Does a Joint Stay in Your System?

Wondering how long a joint will make you high? Or how long cannabis is detectable on a drug test? Here are a few common questions answered.

How Long Does a Joint Make You High?

How long a joint will make you high is not a simple question to answer as it depends on a number of factors. These include:

  • The strength of the marijuana or rather how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it contains.
  • How much you consume.
  • Your body weight and in particular how much body fat you have.
  • Your metabolism
  • Whether or not you are a heavy smoker and have built up a tolerance.
  • And how you consume as smoking or vaping will have a quicker effect that if you eat cannabis products.

If you are using cannabis medicinally you may wish to choose a strain that has lower levels of THC. You can apply for a medical recommendation here to give better access to medical marijuana.

How it works

Marijuana contains many active compounds that have different effects on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the compound responsible for getting you high.

When you smoke or vape cannabis the effects peak within minutes and usually last for 1-3 hours depending on the dose. However, when you eat cannabis effects will generally peak around the one to two-hour mark and may be noticeable for up to 24 hours.

Essentially your high lasts as long as THC is interacting with your endocannabinoid system which is dependent on your metabolism. In order for you to feel high, there needs to be THC in your bloodstream. Your body starts breaking this down as soon as you consume it and the faster your metabolism the quicker this process will be and therefore the shorter your high.

However, that interaction may not leave you feeling high at low levels and this is where tolerance comes in. Frequent users may feel less of a high or feel the effects of a hit of weed for a shorter period of time than infrequent users.

Detecting Marijuana

Detecting Marijuana and marijuana metabolites is generally possible for greater lengths of time than you are actually feeling the effects as marijuana stays in the body for varying lengths of time.

The THC in marijuana is broken down into a number of metabolites by the body. Both THC and its metabolites are hydrophobic (water-fearing) meaning they are not dissolved by water but instead are attracted to fats and end up being stored in body fat to be broken down and disposed of later. This is one reason the detection window for marijuana may be longer than other drugs.

How Long Can a Joint Be Detected on a Drugs Test?

Often people are less concerned with how a joint will make you high for and more concerned with marijuana detection time, wanting to figure out whether or not they are likely to test positive for marijuana in an upcoming drugs test.

Test detection varies on a number of factors including the type of test, what is being tested for (THC detection has a narrower window than THC metabolites), the amount of THC that has been ingested and whether the individual being tested is an occasional user, regular user or chronic user.

For example, a light user being subjected to a saliva drug test more than 24 hours after smoking a joint is likely to pass the test. Whereas heavy users who last smoked marijuana at the same time may still have detectable THC and it is possible this could be above cut-off levels.

Drug testing can broadly be split into two categories. Testing for present intoxication and testing for historical use. With this in mind how long a joint stays in your system will vary depending on what is being tested.

Testing For Present Intoxication

There are a number of different marijuana drug tests. When testing for present intoxication positive results will mean marijuana users must test positive for THC rather than it’s metabolites.

Saliva tests and blood tests can both be used and blood tests, in particular, have different detection times depending on how frequently a person uses cannabis products. A person who is a chronic user may take up to a week before their blood THC level drops below the 5 ng/ml cutoff level due to the way that the body metabolizes cannabinoids.

Therefore it is possible for a person to be drug tested and test positive despite not being currently high.

Testing for Historic Use

As well as testing for active THC test products have also been developed to check for historical drug use by checking for the presence of marijuana metabolites. The most common testing method is urine testing although hair follicle tests may also be used.

A urine drug test will show evidence of substance abuse for anywhere up to 90 days for heavy users whereas positive testing is only likely for around 2 weeks for one time users.

Urine drug tests are common as part of pre-employment checks and you may have to give a urine sample. Home drug tests can give you a good indication of whether or not you will test positive. If you are not a heavy user, haven’t smoked for a few weeks and have tested clean at home then you are probably fine.

Hair follicle drug testing is less common but can show evidence of drug use for much longer periods. A follicle test is likely to reveal drug use in the previous 3 months for frequent users but a hair test is less reliable for infrequent users.

If you are wondering how long a joint stays in your system because you have a drug test coming up and testing negative is important there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of passing. Firstly stop smoking now. Even medical marijuana with lower levels of THC will still give a positive test result and false positives are very rare.

There are detox kits you can get to support your body as it metabolizes the cannabis and may help you through THC withdrawal but ultimately your body will work at its own pace and every person is different.