High-Resolution Ion Mobility Spectrometry for Rapid Cannabis Potency Testing

Anal Chem. 2018 Aug 7;90(15):8764-8768. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.8b02180. Epub 2018 Jul 10.


We report initial results from an ion mobility spectrometry (IMS)-based analysis of natural cannabis samples and explore the possibility of using this technique to distinguish medical marijuana from illegal forms of the drug, as defined by Swiss legislation. We analyzed cannabis extracts by electrospray ionization IMS-MS and found that high-resolution drift-tube IMS ( R > 150) can effectively isolate and quantify the controlled substance, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), even in the presence of other noncontrolled cannabinoid isomers including cannabidiol (CBD). We used this information to determine whether the THC content of a given sample surpassed the legal limit, which is 1% by weight in Switzerland. Our IMS-MS methodology produced equivalent quantification results to standard HPLC-based methods and offers the additional advantage of significantly shorter time requirements for the analysis. In addition, IMS-based analysis offers flexibility over HPLC in that it can be performed on portable devices. As such, these findings may have implications for cannabis testing in police laboratories.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol / analysis
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Dronabinol / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Ion Mobility Spectrometry / methods*
  • Isomerism
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Switzerland


  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol