The minor cannabinoid cannabigerol (CBG) is a highly specific blood biomarker of recent cannabis smoking: Clinical Toxicology: Vol 0, No 0

Abstract

Introduction

The determination of recent cannabis use is of forensic interest in the investigation of automotive crashes, workplace incidents and other mishaps. Because Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol may persist in blood after psychoactive effects of intoxication resolve, particularly in regular users, short-lived minor cannabinoids such as cannabigerol have merited examination as adjunct indicators of recent cannabis inhalation.

Methods

As part of an observational cohort study, whole blood cannabinoids including cannabigerol were measured in whole blood by liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry at baseline, and 30 minutes after initiation of a 15-minute supervised interval of ad libitum cannabis smoking in occasional (1–2 days/week over the past 30 days) (n = 24) and daily cannabis smokers (n = 32). Per protocol, subjects self-reported abstention from inhaling cannabis (>8 h) or ingesting cannabis (>12 h) prior to baseline measurement.

Results

At baseline, none of the occasional users had detectable cannabigerol (limit of detection = 0.2 µg/L), whereas cannabigerol was detectable post-smoking in 7 of 24 (29%). Among daily cannabis users, 2 of 32 (6%) had detectable cannabigerol at baseline, increasing to 21 of 32 (66%) post-smoking. The odds ratio for recent cannabis smoking associated with a detectable cannabigerol was 27 (95% confidence interval: 6.6, 110.3). In this mixed cohort of occasional and daily cannabis users, receiver operator characteristic curve analysis indicated that whole blood cannabigerol concentration of ≥ 0.2 µg/L had 96% specificity, 50% sensitivity, and 73% accuracy for identifying a 15-minute interval of ad libitum cannabis smoking initiated 30 minutes earlier. Post smoking blood Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (median = 5.6 µg/L in occasional users, 21.3 µg/L in daily users) was significantly correlated with post-smoking cannabigerol (P < 0.0001).

Conclusion

Whole blood cannabigerol may have forensic utility as a highly specific albeit insensitive biomarker of recent cannabis smoking.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Additional information

Funding

This work was supported by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (17 FHHA 97267) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA049800).

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