Determination of cannabinoids in oral fluid and urine of "light cannabis" consumers: a pilot study

Roberta Pacifici, Simona Pichini, Manuela Pellegrini, Roberta Tittarelli, Flaminia Pantano, Giulio Mannocchi, Maria Concetta Rotolo, Francesco Paolo Busardò

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background In those countries where cannabis use is still illegal, some manufacturers started producing and selling "light cannabis": dried flowering tops containing the psychoactive principle Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at concentrations lower than 0.2% together with variable concentration of cannabidiol (CBD). We here report a pilot study on the determination of cannabinoids in the oral fluid and urine of six individuals after smoking 1 g of "light cannabis". Methods On site screening for oral fluid samples was performed, as a laboratory immunoassay test for urine samples. A validated gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method was then applied to quantify THC and CBD, independently from results of screening tests. Results On site screening for oral fluid samples, with a THC cut-off of 25 ng/mL gave negative results for all the individuals at different times after smoking. Similarly, negative results for urine samples screening from all the individuals were obtained. Confirmation analyses showed that oral fluid THC was in the concentration range from 2.5 to 21.5 ng/mL in the first 30 min after smoking and then values slowly decreased. CBD values were usually one order of magnitude higher than those of THC. THC-COOH, the principal urinary THC metabolite, presented the maximum urinary value of 1.8 ng/mL, while urinary CBD had a value of 15.1 ng/mL. Conclusions Consumers of a single 1 g dose of "light cannabis" did not result as positive in urine screening, assessing recent consumption, so that confirmation would not be required. Conversely, they might result as positive to oral fluid testing with some on-site kits, with THC cut-off lower than 25 ng/mL, at least in the first hour after smoking and hence confirmation analysis can be then required. No conclusions can be drawn of eventual chronic users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-243
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 19 2018


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