Factors influencing the in situ formation of Δ9-THC from cannabidiol during GC-MS analysis

Drug Test Anal. 2023 Dec 4. doi: 10.1002/dta.3617. Online ahead of print.


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) is widely used for the identification of cannabinoids in seized plant material. Conditions used for instrumental analysis should maximize decarboxylation, while minimizing the in situ production of Δ9-THC inside the GC inlet. In this study, decarboxylation of the acidic Δ9-THC precursor and in situ degradation of cannabidiol (CBD) were investigated using seven commercial GC liners with different deactivation chemistries and geometries. While the inlet temperature was previously optimized at 250°C in a previously validated assay, we systematically examined the temperature-dependent decarboxylation of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid-A (Δ9-THCA-A) and cyclization of CBD between 230°C and 310°C using different liners using favorable and unfavorable conditions. Significant differences in decarboxylation rate and CBD cyclization were observed between different liner types. While no temperature-dependent differences in decarboxylation rate were observed within liner type, liner-dependent differences were observed (α = 0.05), particularly between those with different geometry. In contrast, temperature and liner-dependent differences were observed for in situ formation of Δ9-THC (α = 0.05). This was influenced by liner geometry and to a smaller extent by surface deactivation. Effects were exacerbated with liner usage. While significant differences were observed using new and used GC liners, differences between liners of the same type but different lot numbers were not observed. Inter-instrument differences using the same liner were also evaluated and had minimal effect. Liner- and temperature-dependent effects were also confirmed using more than 20 cannabis plant extracts. Careful selection of liner, inlet conditions, and regular preventive maintenance can mitigate the risks associated with in situ formation Δ9-THC from CBD.

Keywords: CBD; GC-MS; cannabis; liner; Δ9-THC.