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Research to Develop Validated Methods for THC Quantification in Complex Matrices by High-resolution DART-MS—Focus on Edibles and Plant Materials

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $465,724)

The accelerated legalization of marijuana has contributed to the rise in popularity of edible marijuana products (edibles). These products raise several public health concerns, including risk of consumption by children, delayed activation time, intensity of psychoactive effects, and variation of laws from one state to another regarding serving size, labeling, and packaging of marijuana products. While there are well-established protocols in crime labs for the analysis of marijuana materials, these methods can be cumbersome, often requiring extensive sample preparation, time-consuming sample runs, and complex data analysis. There are several challenges that these products impose on the forensic science community, the first being the difficulty in detection and quantification of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in complex matrices, including edibles and plant materials. Efficient extraction protocols for maximum recovery rates of THC from varying complex matrices must be created. Further complicating matters is the challenge forensic chemists face when differentiating THC from cannabidiol (CBD) due to the extensive fragmentation of both molecules under electron ionization-mass spectrometry (El-MS) producing similar spectra. The method proposed here would demonstrate the utility of direct analysis in real time-high resolution mass spectrometry (DART-HRMS) as a presumptive test that can be used for the rapid detection of THC in complex matrices, with minimal to no sample pretreatment steps (Specific Aim I). This method would also demonstrate the ability to distinguish THC from CBD and other phytocannabinoids present in cannabis (Specific Aim II). The development of DART-HRMS validated protocols would allow for the quantification of THC (Specific Aim III). With this information, development of optimized procedures for the recovery of THC from complex matrices such as edibles, beverages, and plant material for subsequent quantitative analysis of THC will be possible (Specific Aim IV). The anticipated outcomes of this work include methods using DART-HRMS as a presumptive screening tool for rapid detection of THC in complex matrices, methods to differentiate THC, CBD, and other phytocannabinoids from one another, development of a DART-HRMS protocol for the quantification of THC in complex matrices, and the development of protocols for efficient processing of complex matrix materials so that extracted THC can be subsequently quantified via DART-MS. Semi-annual and final progress and financial reports as well as scholarly products (e.g. peer reviewed articles) will be produced.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 13, 2019