ASCLD Train the Director – Marijuana Analysis in a New Frontier: Two State Laboratory Approaches

ASCLD Train the Director – Marijuana Analysis in a New Frontier: Two State Laboratory Approaches

← Back to Series

This webinar originally occurred on March 5th, 2020
Duration: 1.5 hours


After the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) was enacted in December 2018, many states rushed to make changes to their own laws to allow the hemp industry to grow and thrive in their jurisdictions. By removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, Cannabis sativa L. plant material with a concentration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis was no longer considered marijuana. For hemp to be differentiated from marijuana, the analytical scheme for suspected marijuana needed to be changed to add an assessment or measurement of the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration.

Laboratory Directors from Colorado and Virginia will discuss the legal landscape of marijuana and hemp in their respective jurisdictions: one with legalized marijuana and one without. The analytical schemes used in both laboratories will be presented.

In Colorado, medical marijuana was passed by the voters in 2000 and recreational marijuana followed in 2012. Amendment 64 from 2012 also included provisions for industrial hemp. With the 2018 Farm Bill on the horizon, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) began researching options to analyze plant samples to be able to differentiate between marijuana and industrial hemp. The CBI continues to work with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and law enforcement agencies across the state. It remains essential to educate officers and attorneys to continue progressing through today’s cannabis industry.

In states where marijuana is not legal, it became vitally important to provide tools such as 4-AP testing for law enforcement to help evaluate which samples should be sent to a forensic laboratory and which should be sent to an agricultural regulatory program. In states like Virginia, these changes grew in importance as the number of registered hemp growers soared.

The Virginia Department of Forensic Science (VADFS) collaborated with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on the validation of a semi-quantitative GC-MS method. After validation, VADFS adopted a variation of the DEA method due to differences in available instrumentation and the legal landscape.

Methods used, overall analytical approaches, and reporting language will be discussed for both laboratories.

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Changes to state legislation in response to the 2018 Farm Bill
  2. Consideration of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vs. total THC
  3. Communication to stakeholders on the limitations of testing
  4. Tools and training materials provided to law enforcement
  5. Current analytical schemes and reporting language
  6. Plans for future methodology


  • Linda Jackson | Director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science
  • Shawn West | Pueblo Laboratory Director with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact us at with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.

Related Content

FLN-TWG: A Roadmap to Improve Research and Technology Transition in Forensic Science

← Back to FLN-TWG Main Page  Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group…

FTCOE White Box Seized Drugs Interlaboratory Comparison Study

Overview The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ, 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU) is conducting a research evaluation of analytical schemes used within seized drug chemistry. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the performance…

Medicolegal Death Investigation Partnerships on Overdose Fatality Reviews

Date July 2022 Overview The main purpose of Overdose Fatality Reviews (OFRs) is to review overdose fatalities and find gaps in services to help save lives. They rely on a multi-agency approach to information sharing to accomplish this goal. Upon…