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In new era, cannabis testing a mixed bag

From CAP Today:

The legal use of marijuana has evolved over the last several years.  Ten years ago, California passed the nation’s first law that permitted patients to use marijuana for medical purposes.  Today, 25 states have legalized medical marijuana.  In addition, 4 states as well as Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use.

Currently, marijuana is the most popular recreational drug in the United States.  Dr. Marilyn Huestis, Ph.D., serves as a Senior Scientific Advisor to NMS Labs and is working to research the long-term impact of the wider access to marijuana.  Essentially, the legal climate surrounding marijuana is changing the methods and usage patterns of marijuana (cannabis) testing in the laboratory.  As a market leader, NMS continues to expand its offerings to meet the demand for cannabis testing. 

Because cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, it is a very complex drug to test.  In addition, the emerging regulations for judging impairment are currently evolving.  According to Dr. Huestis, impairment should be measured and linked to the actual time of cannabis usage.  For instance, occasional smokers may ingest very low doses of the marijuana psychoactive ingredient THC, which can have little effect.  However, a chronic smoker can potentially have traces of THC in their system 30 days after they’ve used cannabis.  Therefore, identifying a marker that measures the recent cannabis usage is more effective at measuring impairment as opposed to overall usage.  In her research, Dr. Huestis has sited cannabigerol and cannabinol has the markers to measure whether someone has recently used marijuana.  NMS Labs is currently developing a method including these 2 cannabinoids.

Dr. Huestis also states that there are serval advantages to use oral fluid testing to test for recent cannabis usage.  When someone smokes or eats editable cannabis it gets into the oral mucosa and saliva, which indicates that the person actually took the drug as oppose to be exposed to it.  Oral fluid testing offers a reduction in specimen collection errors, and it’s easier to reduce the adulteration that is high in urine testing because it’s an observed sample.  In addition, oral fluid testing is easier to navigate in an emergency situation because you don’t have to catheterize them after suffering from trauma.  

Training for oral fluid testing is also significant to the process.  While it is much easier to train someone to take oral specimens as opposed to blood, they still have to know what they’re doing.  Dr. Huestis predicts that oral fluid will become very prominent and will be a major focus for laboratories when conducting cannabis testing.  It is predicted that hospitals and clinical laboratories will enter the oral fluid market in the near future.  Oral fluid testing is also predicted to become a prominent in postmortem autopsy cases. 

In terms of laboratory offerings, Dr. Huestis advocates testing for markers of recent cannabis use to help interpret results as opposed to simply testing for blood cannabinoids and THC.  As the market for medical marijuana grows, she also predicts that labs will start doing therapeutic drug monitoring to test the concentrations of THC to interpret marijuana’s therapeutic range. 

NMS Labs continues to be at the forefront of the cannabis testing. 

For more information cannabis testing as well as any additional NMS Labs products and services, please call 1-866-522-2216 to chat directly with our experts.

Posted: 2/23/2017 10:40:00 AM

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'Dabbing' the new drug of choice for teens?

From ABC15 (Phoenix, AZ):

It’s a new twist on an old drug and it’s becoming increasingly more popular among teens in Arizona.

The drug is called “Butane Hash Oil” or BHO.

On the street it goes by many names including shatter, wax, ear wax, honey oil, amber or dabbing.

Dabbing because you only need a dab.

This latest butane form of hash oil is highly potent.

According to Not My Kid, strong strains of marijuana contain 25% tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, while some butane hash oil can contain upwards of 60-90% THC.

For teens, it’s easier to conceal, easier to carry, but much more dangerous to make.

Another danger is butane can be left in the oil.

“The person that uses it could be smoking butane which is neurotoxic and very dangerous,” Watson warns.

Parents should look for items like butane containers, glass or metal tubes, glass baking dishes, isopropyl alcohol, and coffee filters.

Posted: 9/17/2013 10:57:00 AM

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Evaluating Marijuana Behind the Wheel

From The Epoch Times:

As states ease up on marijuana possession laws, police, legislators, and a skittish driving public worry how this trend will impact road safety. Cannabis clearly has an influence on driver performance, but there is a wide range of opinions about how long to wait after the last toke before getting behind the wheel.

With more states allowing medical and even recreational cannabis, the federal government has been encouraging safety precautions with tougher restrictions for DUI. To date 14 states have traded their effects-based standard to one that establishes a conviction based on blood test results. A driver impairment law that relies on the presence of a substance is called a per se law.

These per se laws essentially treat cannabis like alcohol, where a blood concentration threshold for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—marijuana’s psychoactive chemical—legally determines inebriation. Most states have a .08 blood alcohol per se law to determine if a person is drunk, and a zero tolerance policy for THC, where any amount is justification enough for a DUI conviction and a suspended license.

Just like with alcohol, drivers who test at or above this per se threshold are considered unfit to drive. The recent measure passed in Washington state sets the bar at the high end of the spectrum—five nanograms of THC per ml of blood.

At first glance the notion seems to make good sense—especially given the last 25 years of success with alcohol per se law enforcement in lessening traffic fatalities. However, experts say a THC blood test will never produce a similar result because of a fundamental difference in pharmacokinetics.

First, a cop with a Breathalyzer can accurately measure blood alcohol, but not THC. While authorities talk of an oral swab test in the works, right now THC requires a blood test, which by law must be administered by a licensed medical professional, who may not be available for several hours after the initial arrest.

The most important difference with alcohol is that blood THC has proven to be an unreliable measure for intoxication. Unlike alcohol, THC levels are highest upon first ingesting the drug, yet the greatest impairment does not come until about 20 minutes later after blood THC levels have plummeted. While marijuana smoke can leave a few nanograms of THC lingering in the system for 24 hours or more, research has shown that driving ability usually returns to normal in just a few hours.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that time rather than THC level is a more accurate gauge for evaluating a safe or unsafe driver. Results from NHTSA’s comprehensive 1993 study (a government trial that put cannabis smokers behind the wheel in both a closed course and in heavy urban traffic) found that driver performance noticeably diminished the first two hours after smoking. Driving skills returned to baseline sobriety about three hours after inhalation, and sometimes even improved.

For those familiar with the prevailing science, strict THC per se laws have been a hard sell, but supporters argue that the science is changing. A study released in this month’s American Association of Clinical Chemistry looks at chronic marijuana users at a deeper level than before.

Lead author Marilyn Huestis, chief of chemistry and drug metabolism at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is at the forefront of this new look at THC blood levels. Dr. Huestis has been studying the effects of marijuana for decades, and her latest report observes a trend demonstrated over three published papers.

While the majority of scientists say the effects of marijuana dissipate relatively quickly, Huestis reports that both THC and impaired performance linger in the brains of daily users for weeks after their last puff. The chronic users Huestis observed were still excreting THC from their tissues even after a month of abstinence, and did not respond as well as the control group in psychomotor and divided attention tasks.

According to Heustis’s conclusions, all regular cannabis consumers—including patients who have demonstrated a medical necessity—would automatically become a traffic risk in the eyes of the law even after weeks of abstinence.

Posted: 3/13/2013 3:26:00 PM

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