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Does Topical THC Get You High or Make You Fail a Drug Test? 

By Cheri Sicard
March 20, 2018

Dear Cheri, 

Does topical THC get you high? Can cannabis topicals cause you to fail a drug test? I love my cannabis lotions for my arthritis. But my employer requires drug tests.  Likewise I am a little concerned.

Excellent questions.

The short answers to does topical THC get you high and and can topical cannabis cause you to fail a drug test are no, and no.  With one important exception. Now on the longer answers!

Topical cannabis preparations like THC lotions, balms, salves and other products that are rubbed on the skin or added into baths can be quite effective for inflammation and pain relief as they bind to the cannabinoid receptors in the skin, but they won’t make you high.

Generally speaking topicals have far less cannabis in them than what you smoke, vape or eat., but even if they didn’t, you wouldn’t feel high with this application method.

Dr. Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance made an excellent comparison between cannabis topicals and rubbing alcohol. Despite its high alcohol content, you are not going to feel drunk by using rubbing alcohol. The same is true to of cannabis topicals and feeling high.

You also don’t have to worry about failing a drug test with topicals, as the cannabis is absorbed through the skin and never enters the bloodstream.

That said there is one type of topical that WILL both make you high and cause you to fail a drug test.

Transdermal Patches: The Exception to the Cannabis Topicals Rule 

cannabis topicals, transdermal patch

If you live in a recreationally or medicinally legal state, you may come across cannabis infused transdermal patches. While extremely effective, these patches do contain ingredients that allow THC to enter the bloodstream. Likewise they can make you feel high and they will cause you to fail a drug test.

However, if drug testing is not an issue, transdermal patches can be a great way to medicate as they are discreet and keep a steady dose in your system at all times. Mary’s Medicinals makes some great transdermal products. They even have a CBD-only product for those who want to avoid the high.

Will Marijuana Topicals Make Me High or Make Me Fail a Drug Test

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About the author

Cheri Sicard is the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women, and The Easy Cannabis Cookbook.  Her online courses at have educated 1000s of students about marijuana, cannabis cooking for home cooks, and making infused topicals.

    • Yes. There is a fair amount of controversy about this. Some people swear by other, others say it is toxic. As for me, I prefer to keep things natural. I seem to get great results without it, so unless I have a compelling reason to use it, I would rather pass.

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