15 September 2018
Because of its inherent qualities, in-tube solid-phase microextraction (IT-SPME) coupled on-line to nanoliquid chromatography (nanoLC) can be a very powerful tool to address the new challenges of analytical laboratories such as the analysis of traces of complex samples. This is the case of the detection of contact traces of drugs, especially cannabis. The main difficulties encountered in the analysis of traces of cannabis plants on surfaces are the low amount of sample available (typically < 1 mg), the complexity of the matrix, and the low percentages of cannabinoic compounds in the samples. In this work, a procedure is described for the detection of residues of cannabis on different surfaces based on the responses obtained by IT-SPME coupled to nanoLC with UV diode array detection (DAD) for the cannabinoids Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabinol (CBN); the proposed conditions can also be applied for quantitative purposes through the measurement of the percentage of THC, the most abundant cannabinoid in plants. The method is based on collecting the suspected drug samples with cotton swabs, followed by the extraction of the target compounds by ultrasound assisted extraction. The extracts are then separated and processed by IT-SPME-nanoLC. The proposed approach has been applied to the detection of traces of cannabis in different kind of items (plastic bags, office paper, aluminum foil, cotton cloths, and hand skin). Sample amounts as low as 0.08 mg have been collected and analysed for THC. The selectivity and effect of the storage conditions on the levels of THC have also been evaluated. The percentages of THC in the samples typically ranged from 0.6% to 2.8%, which means that amounts of this compound as low as 1–2 µg were adequately detected and quantified. For the first time, the reliability of IT-SPME-nanoLC for the analysis of complex matrices such as cannabis plant extracts has been demonstrated.