A novel aqueous in situ derivatization procedure with propyl chloroformate (PCF) for the simultaneous, quantitative analysis of (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 11-hydroxy-(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (OH-THC) and 11-nor-(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol-carboxylic acid (THC-COOH) in human blood and urine is proposed. Unlike current methods based on the silylating agent [N,O-bis(trimethylsilyl)trifluoroacetamide] added in an anhydrous environment, this new proposed method allows the addition of the derivatizing agent (propyl chloroformate, PCF) directly to the deproteinized blood and recovery of the derivatives by liquid-liquid extraction. This novel method can be also used for hydrolyzed urine samples. It is faster than the traditional method involving a derivatization with trimethyloxonium tetrafluoroborate. The analytes are separated, detected and quantified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in selected ion monitoring mode (SIM). The method was validated in terms of selectivity, capacity of identification, limits of detection (LOD) and quantification (LOQ), carryover, linearity, intra-assay precision, inter-assay precision and accuracy. The LOD and LOQ in hydrolyzed urine were 0.5 and 1.3ng/mL for THC and 1.2 and 2.6ng/mL for THC-COOH, respectively. In blood, the LOD and LOQ were 0.2 and 0.5ng/mL for THC, 0.2 and 0.6ng/mL for OH-THC, and 0.9 and 2.4ng/mL for THC-COOH, respectively. This method was applied to 35 urine samples and 50 blood samples resulting to be equivalent to the previously used ones with the advantage of a simpler method and faster sample processing time. We believe that this method will be a more convenient option for the routine analysis of cannabinoids in toxicological and forensic laboratories.
11-hydroxy-(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol; 11-nor-(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol-carboxylic acid; aqueous derivatization; cannabinoids; human blood; human urine; (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol