Identifying marijuana in baked goods

Wednesday, 21 October, 2009 | Supplied by: Thermo Fisher Scientific

Thermo Fisher Scientific has announced a method for identifying marijuana cannabinoids in baked goods that is faster, easier-to-use and requires less sample preparation. Using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry detection (UHPLC/MS), the application is detailed in the application note ‘Identification of Cannabinoids in Baked Goods by UHPLC/MS’, which is available to download via the ‘Learn more about Accela’ link at

Marijuana is a common illegal drug which can be screened for using simple chemical tests, such as the Duqenois-Levine test, and then gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) can be used to positively identify cannabinoids. This conventional technique works well for leaf marijuana, hashish and residue collected from smoking paraphernalia. UHPLC/MS however is an alternate method for identifying marijuana cannabinoids in complex food matrices such as baked goods.

Incorporating the Thermo Scientific Accela UHPLC system, the Thermo Scientific MSQ Plus Mass Detector, a single quadrupole mass spectrometer and Thermo Scientific Xcalibur software, the system detects marijuana cannabinoids, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol and cannabidiol in the baked goods, a complex food matrix. The system delivers results with simpler sample preparation, no derivatisation and less instrument clean-up time.

A team extracted and separated cannabinoids on a Thermo Scientific Hypersil GOLD PFP column and it showed that the cannabinoid standards eluted with good resolution at 4.1 min (cannabidiol), 5.1 min (THC) and 5.4 min (cannabinol). The extracts from a brownie and a biscuit eluted at 5.1 min, testing positive for THC, demonstrating how little sample preparation is required for this method. It is simpler, faster and requires less sample material than traditional GC/MS techniques. Preparation time of ten minutes and a total run time of eight minutes shows the efficiency of UHPLC/MS detection.

The Accela is a high-speed chromatographic system that provides fast and efficient chromatographic separations over a range of flow rates and pressures. It features optimised system delay volumes for fast separations and flexible sample format. The innovative quaternary pump is capable of conventional and ultra-high pressures while the Thermo Scientific LightPipe technology provides maximum sensitivity and resolution.

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