The US National Institute of Justice has ponied up a bundle of bucks to fund the development of simpler and cheaper THC testing.
The 2018 Farm Bill created a few headaches for law enforcement at a federal level when it legalised industrial hemp. Where previously all cannabis was (incorrectly) considered marijuana, it now had to be determined if seized cannabis was hemp or marijuana – the difference being hemp is cannabis with less than 0.3 % decarboxylated-Δ9-THC (total THC).
This can’t be distinguished easily – it all looks the same and smells the same. Lab testing used to be reasonably straightforward, but now more complex, time-consuming and costly laboratory tests are required in order to make accurate THC determinations.
The National Institute of Justice is looking to address this. Last week it announced it had awarded a USD $350,000 grant to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for it to develop simpler yet robust and more cost effective analytical methods.
“This effort will focus on the development of isotope dilution GC-MS methods, extraction protocols, a single laboratory validation study, and evaluations of benchtop and portable infrared spectrometers,” states NIJ.
Through a collaboration with Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) and Maryland State Police (MSP) crime labs, 125 adjudicated seized cannabis samples have been made available for method validation.
Assuming this is successfully developed, the technology will be transferred from NIST to federal, state, and local forensic laboratories through standard operating procedures, training modules and other mediums.
On a related note, a field testing kit developed by biotechnology company Hemp Synergistics that enabled law enforcement officers to gauge if cannabis or a cannabis product is likely hemp or marijuana was released in August this year.
The “Tru THC” test isn’t designed to replace full forensic laboratory testing, but it can determine what doesn’t need to be sent to a lab; avoiding legitimate hemp crops and products being seized for further investigation. The company says the rapid test can provide complete results in 90 seconds and was to be priced to be similar to non-discriminatory field test kits already in use by law enforcement.