Hemp or marijuana? A hand-held spectrometer quickly determines the THC level

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How to distinguish fiber or seed hemp from cannabis, if the dried cannabis looks basically identical? It is not easy for a layman, and the right identification can be important for someone to be or not to be. In prison.

In many countries, the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis source of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is prohibited by law. THC is the chemical responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. There is no problem with growing hemp or fibrous hemp that contains cannabidiol (CBD), which does not show such characteristics. CBD, however, relieves pain, inflammation and relieves anxiety. It can therefore be used therapeutically. The problem is that at first and even second glance, it is impossible to distinguish dried cannabis from dried hemp or fiber hemp. In addition, depending on growing conditions, even in innocent fiber hemp, THC levels may increase above the permissible level.

And this problem was decided by scientists from Texas, where it is legal to grow those varieties of hemp that contain less than 0.3 percent. THC. Above this value, we are already talking about illegal marijuana in the US state. Changing state regulations has made cannabis a popular crop in Texas. But if the crop is to be legal, the THC content may not exceed 0.3 percent specified in the regulations.

A team of researchers from the organization Texas A&M AgriLife (combining the state agricultural college and state institutions responsible for agriculture), to facilitate the life of Texan farmers, decided to develop a mobile "hemp scanner", by which, for example, the police could quickly check how much THC contains the test plant. The results of your work reported in the scientific journal Royal Society of Chemistry Advances.

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The scanner project was led by dr Dmitri Kurouski, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Kurouski's laboratory has experience in the use of Raman spectroscopy. Raman spectroscopy involves measuring Raman scattering radiation, i.e. inelastic photon scattering, and is used in a Texan laboratory to conduct non-invasive tests for plant diseases and to check the nutrient content of food. The technique uses harmless laser light to illuminate structures inside materials. The scan of each material is unique, similar to a fingerprint. Based on a laboratory spectrometer, two laboratory workers Lee Sanchez and Charles Farber built a hand-held scanner.

hemp
Lee Sanchez, creator of the scanner when scanning cannabis to determine the THC level. (Photo: eurekalert / Dmitry Dmitrija Kurouski)

To test the scanner, first you had to check the spectrum of dozens of plant samples with different THC concentration. All batches of plants came from around Denver. The analysis showed seven areas in the spectrum that differed slightly between varieties differing in the amount of THC. After testing dozens of samples from various plants, researchers were able to correctly determine the concentration of THC in all samples. According to Dmitry Kurouski, a hand-held scanner using a Raman spectrometer gives 100% test certainty. Now it remains to wait for the production of the device. Production can start in two or three years. Now scientists are trying on a device that will check CBD levels just as quickly and non-invasively. In turn, the value of medicinal cannabis varieties depends on the amount of this substance.

Depending on the country, the authorities' attitude towards marijuana varies. Uruguay in 2017 legalized the cultivation, trade and use of marijuana. Canada in 2018 legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes by adults and possession of up to 30 g of the product and the cultivation of up to four plants at home. In 2013, the Czech Republic allowed the sale of marijuana in pharmacies with prescriptions issued in cases of severe diseases. In the USA, each state has its own regulations in this regard. California in 2018 allowed the unrestricted cultivation and sale of hemp for commercial purposes (the size of the crop is limited). | allthingsblogging.com

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