Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you’ve probably heard or read some news about herbal incense that’s spiked with synthetic cannabinoids. This incense can go by several names, including, K2, Spice, or legal pot. While some of the synthetic cannabinoids are controlled in some states, as well as being well on their way to DEA scheduling, other compounds in this large structural family are not yet controlled. When I say this is a large structural family, I mean that there are dozens of compounds that are actually members of a few different structural families that could be used to create ‘legal pot’. Since the purpose of this blog post is not to discuss the legal or moral ramifications of synthetic cannabinoids, let me get to the meat of the post: sometime in the near future (if not already), there may be a sizable demand for the testing of herbal incense products for a long and dynamic list of synthetic cannabinoids.
With that in mind (and because testing actual legal pot samples is fun), my colleagues and I at Restek – with the help of Paul Kennedy at Cayman Chemical – developed an LC/MS/MS method for a variety of synthetic cannabinoids in herbal incense. Here’s the good news: extracting and analyzing these compounds is pretty straightforward; the compounds chromatograph well, and although many of them share common fragments, hardly any of them are isobaric. Now for the bad news: new synthetic cannabinoids are coming out all the time; I did this work in December, and since then, some cursory internet searches have revealed several new compounds that have entered the market just in the past couple of months. Since most of these compounds are structurally related, chances are they’ll be as well-behaved as the compounds I’ve shown in my analysis, requiring very few method tweaks to add new compounds.
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