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Texas A&M researchers think lasers could solve hemp’s police problem


Pang Kakit for Wikimedia Commons

Since the legalization of industrial hemp and CBD in 2018, multiple farmers, consumers and retailers of the products have faced issues with police and other state officials due to confusion over their contents.


Over the past year or more, police departments have initiated wrongheaded busts against stores they thought were carrying and selling marijuana, along with other issues that resulted from misunderstandings about THC contents in hemp. Now, researchers at the University of Texas A&M think they’ve cracked the cannabis code — with lasers.


Finding the proper THC level is important, as the compound is the element of the cannabis plant that gets users high and it is also what separates legal industrial hemp and CBD from illegal marijuana in many states.


The need for fast, on-location testing capabilities in police and other settings is clear when one considers the mixups and problems with the status quo.


According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, current technology used to ensure CBD and hemp products fall under the 0.3% THC limit is is called high pressure liquid chromatography and it is clumsy and onerous. [1]


“These sophisticated tests are destructive, time consuming and can only be performed in certified laboratories,” Texas A&M researchers told the Star Telegram. “This drastically delays the times of analysis for potential drug substances.” [1]


Austin NPR affiliate KUT 90.5 reports that the Texas A&M team have worked up a new laser-based chromatography tool to allow for portable use and rapid results in the field. [2]


One of the areas where false positive arrests and other problems have cropped up for hemp companies is on the highways. Despite U.S. Department of Agriculture guidance to the contrary, some state highway patrols and police units have stopped interstate shipments of hemp products without any method to verify their contents.


According to the NPR report, the new laser-chromatography prototype is about the size of a lunch box and could easily be carried in a squad car or similar responder unit to ease tensions around the hemp identification issue. [2]


“The accuracy is 100%,” Dmitry Kurouski, an author of the research project, told KUT 90.5. “We can differentiate between hemp and cannabis, and that's really remarkable.” [2]


In Texas, recent legislation may add more enforcement to the hemp and CBD industry rather than less, as a new bill passed that barred police from enforcing hemp charges unless a cheaper method of evaluating THC levels could be found. [2]


Sources

[1] https://www.star-telegram.com/news/nation-world/national/article240208847.html

[2] https://www.kut.org/post/texas-researchers-say-they-found-way-help-cops-id-pot-100-accuracy-using-lasers

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