Tracing Marijuana Back to its Pot
ScienceDave | June 22, 2007 at 08:16 amby
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These elements naturally exist as 'heavier' and 'lighter' forms, referred to as stable isotopes (compared to radioisotopes that decay and release energy). As the plants grow and use these elements to make leaves, stems, and roots, they simultaneously incorporate an imprint of the heavy and light forms of the elements. The ratio of these heavy and light forms might tell the chemists where the plants were grown to a reasonable degree of certainty.
For example, oxygen and hydrogen ratios can reveal information about the water a plant used while growing and, as a result, where it was grown. Water in Alaska and other high latitudes generally has a larger proportion of light oxygen and hydrogen stable isotopes than water from locations at lower latitudes. Carbon tells another story, he said. It can offer information on whether a plant was grown outdoors or inside. Nitrogen could provide even more information.
The testing at the UAF facility is novel because, for each sample, scientists are taking the isotopic signatures of four elements, rather than for just a single one, Wooller said. "We have the potential to create a precise chemical fingerprint."
The lab is being provided with marijuana samples from plants confiscated by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement.
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