Identification and quantification of synthetic cannabinoids in ‘spice-like’ herbal mixtures: A snapshot of the German situation in the autumn of 2012



Synthetic compounds mimicking cannabis-like effects are a recent trend. Currently, these so-called synthetic cannabinoids are the largest and fastest growing class of newly appearing designer drugs. Many national authorities are continuously adapting their regulations to keep pace with the permanently changing variety of compounds. We have analyzed eight herbal smoking blends containing synthetic cannabinoids. Altogether, nine compounds could be identified, namely AM-2201, AM-2201-pMe (MAM-2201), AM-1220, AM-1220-azepane, UR-144, XLR-11, JWH-122-pentenyl, AM-2232, and STS-135. Newly appearing compounds were isolated by column chromatography and their structures elucidated by 1D- and 2D-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments. In addition, the compounds were investigated by electron ionization-mass spectrometry (EI-MS) and electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (ESI-MS/MS) to complete the physicochemical dataset. Based on the purified compounds a universal gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) method was developed for the identification and quantification of these compounds in commercial smoking blends. By applying this method, up to five different compounds could be found in such products showing total concentrations from 72 to 303 mg/g smoking blend while individual compounds ranged from 0.4 to 303 mg/g. 1H NMR spectra of the chiral compounds AM-1220 and its azepane-isomer recorded in the presence of 1 equivalent of (R)-(+)-α-methoxy-α-trifluoromethylphenylacetic acid (MTPA, Mosher's acid) showed them to be racemic mixtures. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.