Scientists in Texas have created a scanner can can determine whether a cannabis plant is hemp or marijuana
Marijuana varieties contain more than 0.3% THC and are illegal in the state.
The scientists were inspired to create the handheld device after a vehicle containing thousands of pounds of hemp was detained by police.
The driver spent weeks in jail while the crop was tested.
The study was led by Dmitry Kurouski, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Kurouski’s lab had experience in using Raman spectroscopy to test for plant diseases and the nutritional content of foods.
This non-invasive test creates a unique image much like a fingerprint.
Lee Sanchez made numerous trips to Colorado where recreational marijuana is legal to test the two cannabis varieties.
“Lee Sanchez was the hero who was travelling to Colorado three times, staying there in hotels and driving from one location to another.
“Most of those locations are old fire stations. They are not fancy greenhouses but old, shaky buildings with plants inside.”
Sanchez and Kurouski then analysed the samples and discovered key chemical differences in seven regions of the plants.
Using the readouts from these seven regions, the team was able to determine whether the plant was hemp or marijuana with 100% accuracy.
“We know plants from A to Z in terms of their spectroscopic signature.
“But when we saw such a crystal-clear picture of THC that appeared in one second of spectral acquisition, that was mind-blowing.”
The team is now looking to mass-produce the hemp scanner.
They may also create a test to determine the CBD content of hemp plants. This would allow farmers to calculate the value of their crops.