A researcher at a Scottish university has developed a test which can detect cannabis in extremely minute quantities through DNA analysis.
Dr Adrian Linacre developed the test at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Dr Linacre explained how his test uses a special technique called “polymerase chain reaction.”
“The process enzymatically amplifies DNA regions,” explained Dr Linacre. “In the case of this test, there are DNA sequences in the chloroplast of cannabis that are not present in any other plant.”
With further fine-tuning, the test will be able to identify different strains through genetic analysis. Yet although Dr Linacre originally envisioned his test being used to track and link shipments of marijuana seized at ports of entry, it seems far more likely that customs agents and police would prefer to have a quick and easy swab test that picks up molecular levels of pot.
Although the test is super-sensitive, it is not infallible. “Persistence studies have been performed on persons who have handled resin and vegetative material,” noted Dr Linacre. “In these cases, washing in soap and water removes the material. Rubbing hands on trousers ten times, or placing hands in pockets ten times, does not remove the material and it can still be detected two hours later.”
Dr Linacre also described how the test is still somewhat time-consuming. “At present, the test will take a number of hours. But with the advancement in DNA technology I am confident this will be reduced.”
Since the test will ultimately be able to detect different strains of pot, Dr Linacre was sure that it could easily differentiate between hemp and marijuana DNA, explaining that hemp rope had already tested negative.
This type of test will not replace traditional drug-testing, as when cannabis is consumed the DNA is destroyed before it reaches the blood or urine.
Although many improvements are planned, the cannabis detection-test is ready for the market. Dr Linacre explained that “The University, who owns the patent, is actively trying to find a backer for the project to fully commercialise it.”
Oddly, Dr Linacre’s work is funded mostly by himself. He claimed that “the bulk of the research money came from my own fees as part of the work I do as an expert witness in DNA typing. I am trying to get the government to sponsor the work, without success.”
Dr Linacre has already developed a similar test to detect magic mushrooms, and is also working on a DNA test for cocaine.