With recent advances in science and technology, it is now possible for the U.S. Department of Justice to use chemical analysis to determine which legal marijuana states are supplying the black market.
In a study published in a November 2009 issue of the Journal of Forensic Science, researchers from Texas A&M found that the geographic origins of cannabis could be determined through an examination of the strontium isotopes absorbed by the plant.
Strontium is a stable isotope that is formed by the radioactive decay of rubidium, a soft metal that is sometimes used in fireworks to give off a purple color. Strontium itself is known as an “Alkaline Earth Metal,” estimated to be absorbed by the human body on an average of 2 mg per day. It has similar properties to calcium and exists naturally in human blood and bone.
Dr. Jason West and his colleagues at the Texas AgriLife Research Department of Ecosystem Science & Management of Uvalde, Texas, found that the amount of strontium contained within a cannabis plant could possibly be correlated by matching strontium levels found in the local geology of the region in which said plant was grown.
Basically, the isotope levels differ enough to leave a chemical “breadcrumb trail” that can be traced back to a specific area.
In 2010, researchers from the Department of Biology at the University of Utah were able to determine the origins of cannabis that was illegally smuggled over the border by analyzing carbon and hydrogen isotopes.
Additionally, these scientific hotshots were able to differentiate between plants grown indoors versus outdoors.
Later, in 2011, a machine was developed by Picarro, Inc in Santa Clara, California to be used by Customs Service to analyze carbon isotope levels of marijuana confiscated at the U.S.-Mexico and Canadian borders. In addition to preventing marijuana from entering the U.S., customs agents are also tasked with gathering information on its origins.
It is highly conceivable that these same machines could be utilized in the U.S. to detect and correlate isotope levels of black market cannabis.
The federal government has the authority to regulate interstate commerce. Thus, they can prosecute individuals for transporting cannabis across state lines, even from one legal state to another.
It is now well within the realm of possibility that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions could build a strong case against allowing legal marijuana to continue by using this technology to prove that pot grown in legal areas is being smuggled into areas of prohibition.
But then again, science has never been the U.S. government’s strong suit—especially when it comes to the cannabis plant. So if a federal marijuana crackdown is on the horizon, our guess is that it will not be supported, at all, by scientific evidence.