Work place drug testing of police officers after THC exposure during large volume cannabis seizures

Gregory S. Doran, Ralph M. Deans, Carlo de Filippis, Chris Kostakis, Julia A. Howitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Police officers responsible for the seizure and removal of illegally grown cannabis plants from indoor and outdoor growing operations face the prospect of THC exposure while performing their work duties. As a result, a study investigating the amount of THC on hands and uniforms of officers during raids on cannabis growing houses (CGHs) and forest cannabis plantations (FCPs) and in the air at these sites was conducted. Swabs of gloves/hands, chests, and heads/necks were collected and analysed for THC. Results of hand swabs indicated that officers removing plants from FCPs were exposed to THC concentrations up to 20 times those involved in raids at CGHs, which was mainly associated with the number and size of plants seized. Air samples collected inside cannabis houses showed no detectable THC. Air samples collected inside the cargo area of the storage trucks used during FCP raids indicated that THC can be volatilised when lush plants are compressed by other seized plants loaded on top of them in the truck over a period of several days, allowing composting of plants at the bottom of the load to commence. The elevated temperature and humidity inside the truck may assist the decarboxylation of THCA to THC, as well as increasing the rate of volatilisation of THC. More than 100 urine samples were collected from officers in raids on both CGHs and FCPs and all tested negative for THC. Removal of cannabis plants by officers often resulted in cuts, abrasions and ruptured blisters on exposed skin surfaces, particularly at FCPs. The results in this study suggest that even when small areas of damaged skin are directly exposed to THC by contact transfer, the likelihood of showing a positive THC urine test is low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-233
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International
Early online dateApr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2017


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