Raman-Based Differentiation of Hemp, Canabdiol-Rich Hemp and Cannabis.

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Hemp (Cannabis sativa) has been used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C. Its pharmacological effect originates from a large variety of cannabinols. Although more than 100 different cannabinoids have been isolated from Cannabis plants, clear physiological effects of only a few of them have been determined, including delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG). While THC is an illicit drug, CBD and CBG are legal substances that have a variety of unique pharmacological properties such as the reduction of chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety and depression. Over the last decade, substantial efforts have been made to develop Cannabis varieties that would produce large amounts of CBD and CBG. Ideally, such plant varieties should produce very little (below 0.3%) if any THC to make their cultivation legal. The amount of cannabinoids in the plant material can be determined using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This analysis, however, is non-portable, destructive, time and labor consuming. Our group recently proposed to use Raman spectroscopy (RS) for confirmatory, non-invasive and non-destructive differentiation between hemp and cannabis. The question to ask is whether RS can be used to detect CBD and CBG in hemp, as well as enable confirmatory differentiation between hemp, cannabis and CBD-rich hemp. In this manuscript, we show that RS can be used to differentiate between cannabis, CBD-rich plants and regular hemp. We also report spectroscopic signatures of CBG, cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), THC, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), CBD and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) that can be used for Raman-based quantitative diagnostics of these cannabinoids in plant material.

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