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New Scanner Can Distinguish Hemp from Cannabis

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One of the biggest issues facing psychoactive cannabis and hemp is the inability to tell the two apart. Without a reliable test, it’s hard to tell which is which. That’s why a team at A&M AgriLife is working on a “hemp scanner” to help tell the difference between hemp and cannabis plants.

According to Science Daily and a study in RSC Advances, the study took place in Denver, Colorado for easy access to study subject matter, even though the team was based in Texas. “Lee Sanchez was the hero who was traveling to Colorado three times, staying there in hotels and driving from one location to another. Most of those locations are old fire stations. They are not fancy greenhouses but old, shaky buildings with plants inside,” said Dmitry Kurouski, Ph.D., assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and leader of the study.

Once the cannabis was back in Texas, data was analyzed to look for the difference between the two samples, and to determine if there was a way to identify between the two plants. “We know plants from A to Z in terms of their spectroscopic signature,” Kurouski said. “But when we saw such a crystal-clear picture of THC that appeared in one second of spectral acquisition, that was mind-blowing.”

The team is now helping to team up with the hemp industry to mass-produce their hemp scanner. They are hoping to start producing in two or three years, with the hope that they can create a similar CBD test so that farmers can determine how much CBD is in the plants they are growing. It can also help determine the quality of cannabis and how strains of cannabis and hemp differ from each other.

“Our colleagues, the farmers, were positively surprised that we could identify the variety with 98 percent accuracy,” Kurouski said. “That blew them away.”

Ever since the USDA approved the hemp plan in Texas, where hemp cultivation is now legal, there has been a demand to be able to tell hemp from cannabis. The state has even considered decriminalizing cannabis since it’s hard to tell the difference.

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