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Publication Title | Potency Trends of D9-THC and Other Cannabinoids in Confiscated Cannabis Preparations from 1993 to 200

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J Forensic Sci, September 2010, Vol. 55, No. 5 doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01441.x PAPER Available online at: interscience.wiley.com

CRIMINALISTICS

Zlatko Mehmedic,1 M.Sc.Pharm.; Suman Chandra,1 Ph.D.; Desmond Slade,1 Ph.D.;

Heather Denham,1 B.A.; Susan Foster,1 B.A.; Amit S. Patel,2,3 Ph.D.; Samir A. Ross,1,4 Ph.D.; Ikhlas A. Khan,1,4 Ph.D.; and Mahmoud A. ElSohly,1,5 Ph.D.

Potency Trends of D9-THC and Other Cannabinoids in Confiscated Cannabis Preparations from 1993 to 2008*

ABSTRACT: The University of Mississippi has a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to carry out a variety of research activities dealing with cannabis, including the Potency Monitoring (PM) program, which provides analytical potency data on cannabis preparations con- fiscated in the United States. This report provides data on 46,211 samples seized and analyzed by gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID) during 1993–2008. The data showed an upward trend in the mean D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC) content of all confiscated cannabis preparations, which increased from 3.4% in 1993 to 8.8% in 2008. Hashish potencies did not increase consistently during this period; however, the mean yearly potency varied from 2.5–9.2% (1993–2003) to 12.0–29.3% (2004–2008). Hash oil potencies also varied considerably during this period (16.8 € 16.3%). The increase in cannabis preparation potency is mainly due to the increase in the potency of nondomestic versus domestic samples.

KEYWORDS: cannabichromene (CBC), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinoids, cannabinol (CBN), cannabis, criminalis- tics, forensic science, gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC-FID), marijuana, potency, tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), D9-tetra- hydrocannabinol (D9-THC)

Marijuana, the crude drug derived from Cannabis sativa L. pistil- late inflorescence, is the most widely cultivated and consumed illicit drug in the world despite being under international control for eight decades (1,2). The reason for this is mainly attributed to two factors; namely, relaxation of cannabis law enforcement relative to other illi- cit drugs and the enormous extent of cannabis production and con- sumption. Furthermore, cannabis is cultivated both indoors and outdoors, often on a small scale, facilitating inconspicuous trading. Hashish (hash) and hash oil are two preparations designed to mini- mize the volume of the drug, thereby minimizing confiscation.

The D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC) potency (concentration or content) of cannabis depends on soil and climate conditions, variety (phenotype), and cultivation techniques, with different parts of the plant having varying concentrations of the drug (3–6). The total number of identified cannabis constituents has increased from 489 in 2005 (7) to 537 in 2009, while the number of cannabinoids has increased from 70 to 109 (8–13). The main psychoactive

1National Center for Natural Products Research, School of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677.

2Department of Pharmacy Administration, School of Pharmacy, Univer- sity of Mississippi, University, MS 38677.

3Current address: Medical Marketing Economics, LLC, PO Box 2309, Oxford, MS 38655.

4Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Mis- sissippi, University, MS 38677.

5Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, University of Missis- sippi, University, MS 38677.

*This project was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (contract number N01DA-5-7746).

Received 15 May 2009; and in revised form 14 July 2009; accepted 31 July 2009.

ingredient in cannabis is D9-THC (14,15); however, other cannabi- noids have also demonstrated pharmacological activities, e.g., the nonpsychotropic cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) displays antipsy- chotic, antihyperalgesic, anticonvulsant, neuroprotective, and anti- emetic properties (16–18).

The complex political, medical, cultural, and socioeconomic issues associated with cannabis necessitates not only public and governmental scrutiny, but especially scientific inquiry (1,2,19–24). The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Potency Monitoring (PM) program at the National Center for Natural Products Research, University of Mississippi, provides analytical potency data on cannabis preparations seized in the United States, including both domestic and nondomestic material (25–28). A survey of the literature reporting similar programs in other countries revealed a number of comprehensive studies, e.g., England (2004–2005) (29), Brazil (2006–2007) (30), Netherlands (1999–2007) (31–34), Italy (1997–2004) (35), New Zealand (1976–1996) (36), and Australia (37), as well as a number of general reviews pertaining to cannabis potency trends (1,2,21,22,32,38,39).

This report covers 46,211 cannabis preparations confiscated and analyzed by gas chromatography-flame ionization detection (GC- FID) in the United States during 1993–2008, following on previous reports covering 1972–1997 (36,297 samples) (25–28). The total number of samples received during this period (1993–2008) was 47,583 as of 30 March 2009. The number of samples analyzed was 46,211, with 1,372 samples not analyzed for a variety of reasons, including insufficient material, wet material, and material contain- ing only seeds and stems. Statistical analysis on the mean yearly D9-THC concentration is included to establish the potency trend over time. Data on hashish, hash oil, and the potencies of

Ó 2010 American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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