Quantitative determination of CBD and THC and their acid precursors in confiscated cannabis samples by HPLC-DAD.

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Analysis of cannabis has gained new importance worldwide, mainly for quality control within the legalized recreational and medical cannabis industry, but also for forensic differentiation between drug-type cannabis and legal products such as fiber hemp and CBD-rich/THC-poor cannabis. We herein present an HPLC-DAD method for quantitative analysis of major neutral and acidic cannabinoids in herbal cannabis and hashish: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA), cannabidiol (CBD), cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and cannabinol (CBN). Plant material was dried, homogenized and extracted with a mixture of methanol/hexane. Chromatographic separation of the analytes was achieved on a core-shell C8 column using gradient elution with water/acetonitrile containing 0.1% formic acid. The analytical run time was 13 min and analytes were detected at 210 nm. The method is selective, sensitive, accurate, and precise, as confirmed through validation according to ICH and AOAC guidelines. Linearity in herbal cannabis ranged from 0.04 to 4.00% for the neutral cannabinoids, and from 0.40 to 20% for the acids. Linear ranges in hashish samples were 0.13-13.33% and 1.33-66.66%, respectively. The presented method was successfully applied to characterize 110 cannabis samples seized by the Swiss police, demonstrating its applicability for routine cannabis potency testing in the forensic setting.

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