Delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin as a marker for the ingestion of marijuana versus Marinol: results of a clinical study.J Anal Toxicol 2001; 25(7):565-71JA
Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychologically active ingredient of the cannabis plant (marijuana), has been prepared synthetically and used as the bulk active ingredient of Marinol, which was approved by the FDA for the control of nausea and vomiting in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients. Because the natural and the synthetic THC are identical in all respects, it is impossible to determine the source of the urinary metabolite of THC, 11-nor-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid (THC-COOH), in a urine specimen provided in a drug-testing program. Over the last few years there has been a need to determine whether a marijuana positive drug test is the result of the ingestion of marijuana (or a related product) or whether it results from the sole use of Marinol. We have previously proposed the use of delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV, the C3 homologue of THC) as a marker for the ingestion of marijuana (or a related product) because THCV is a natural component of most cannabis products along with THC and does not exist in Marinol. We have also reported that THCV is metabolized by human hepatocytes to 11-nor-delta9-tetrahydrocannabivarin-9-carboxylic acid (THCV-COOH); therefore, the presence of the latter in a urine specimen would indicate that the donor must have used marijuana or a related product (with or without Marinol). In this study, we provide clinical data showing that THCV-COOH is detected in urine specimens collected from human subjects only after the ingestion of marijuana and not after the ingestion of Marinol (whether the latter is ingested orally or by smoking). Four subjects (male and female) participated in the study in a three-session, within-subject, crossover design. The sessions were conducted at one-week intervals. Each subject received, in separate sessions and in randomized order, an oral dose of Marinol (15 mg), a smoked dose of THC (16.88 mg) in a placebo marijuana cigarette, or a smoked dose of marijuana (2.11% THC and 0.12% THCV). Urine samples were collected and vital signs were monitored every 2 h for a 6-h period following drug administration. Subjects were then transported home, were given sample collection containers and logbooks, and were instructed to record at home the volume and time of every urine collection for 24 h, and once a day for the remainder of a week (6 days). Subjects were also instructed to freeze the urine samples until the next session. All urine samples were analyzed by GC-MS for THC-COOH and THCV-COOH using solid-phase extraction and derivatization procedure on RapidTrace and TBDMS as the derivative. The method had a limit of detection of 1.0 ng/mL and 1.0 ng/mL for THCV-COOH and THC-COOH, respectively.