Kurouski Lab Back at KBTX!

April 14, 2020
Lee Sanchez demonstrating how to use the Raman Spectrometer

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) – A new tool, developed by Texas A&M University scientists, could tell the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana in seconds.

“We developed this technology that allows for non-invasive, non-destructive—and what’s very important for law enforcement officers—on-site identification of cannabis,” said Dmitry Kurouski, assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University.

“It’s really simple,” said Lee Sanchez, the research assistant credited with developing this machine that’s about the size of a lunchbox. “You place [the sample] against the nose cone, turn on the laser, and it’ll give us a spectra.”

That “spectra” is what tells the trained eye whether the sample is marijuana or hemp. Kurouski says the machine can also detect the difference in legal CBD oil and illegal THC-infused oil.

Officer Jeffrey Pearce with the College Station Police Department says he and his department appreciate new technology that could help them do their jobs more efficiently.

“We’re trained to recognize marijuana,” said Officer Pearce. “Coming from someone who’s been around hemp as well, they are very similar. They look the same; they smell the same.”

The Texas Farm Bureau will host a forum Wednesday in Waco on the emerging hemp business across the state, and that’s just one of many examples of the expansion of the hemp industry since the legislature voted to legalize hemp and CBD products in Texas.

Hemp is virtually identical to marijuana aside from one key aspect: Marijuana contains enough of the psychoactive substance, tetrahydrocannabinol, or T-H-C as it is commonly referred to, to intoxicate you.

Hemp does not.

The push for hemp legalization comes from its use. Hemp is an extremely durable plant that has a wide range of uses from medicine to clothes to environmentally-friendly plastic substitutes.

When asked whether this could be a “game-changer” for law enforcement, Pearce said, “It potentially could.”

“It would absolutely fit inside a police unit,” said Pearce.

The next step? Putting it on the market. The technology is so new that Kurouski and Sanchez haven’t figured that part out yet, but they hope to start the process soon.

For the full conversation from First News at Four and a look at the machine itself, see the video here.