The Bard Hits the Bong?

I was listening to “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”  (WWDTM) today on the local NPR station and heard an interesting story.  WWDTM is a humorous quiz show on topical news items, and features celebrities and comedians bantering with each other and the host, Peter Sagal, while chosen listeners are called and asked questions.  The prize for answering correctly is a Carl Kassell (WWDTM’s Official Judge and Scorekeeper) greeting on the contestant’s voicemail.  OK, that may be interesting, but that wasn’t the story…

 During the carrying-on in the show, it was mentioned that William Shakespeare had possibly used marijuana, since pipes were found in his garden that contained traces of cannabis and (even more incredibly) cocaine!  Just recently, an anthropologist from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Francis Thackeray, made a request to the Church of England to uncover Shakespeare’s remains in hopes of proving this theory, as well as determining cause of death.  Given that an epitaph on the stone slab covering Shakespeare in part reads, “Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he who moves my bones”, it seems doubtful that his request will be honored.

The story is interesting on its face, but even more so to me since it involves the forensic chemistry of marijuana, something  my colleagues Frank Dorman at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and Amanda Rigdon at Restek, and I, were practicing just last week.  Thanks again to Randy Hoffman, a Police Officer Specialist/Evidence Technician at PSU, we were able to use QuEChERS and other extraction techniques on seized cannabis to (1) develop methods for possibly fingerprinting marijuana types, (2) characterize marijuana potency, and (3) analyze for pesticides in marijuana with GCxGC-TOFMS and LC-MS/MS.

Amanda will be reporting soon on the potency extraction techniques she’s using, checking out different solvents for efficiency, and she’s also developed GC and LC methods for potency characterization, using new Restek standards that contain cannabidiol, cannabinol, and THC as a mix (catalog# 34014), and THCA as a single component (catalog# 34093).  Michelle Misselwitz, Sharon Lupo, Julie Kowalski, and I are working on the pesticide determinations and we should have those done in time to report the results at the 48th Annual Florida Pesticide Residue Workshop.

To wrap this blog up, first I go back to WWDTM, where Peter Sagal theorized that if Hamlet’s hobby was the same as the one suggested by Shakespeare’s garden pipes, the famous line might have been:

“To be or not to be, what is the question?”

And finally, Sonnet 76 (William Shakespeare):

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

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