Investigator Stephen Goetz measures
the diameter of the stem of a marijuana plant.
Credit: Fairbanks Police Dept.
Scientists at the Alaska Stable Isotope Facility have been tracing the origins of marijuana — using the same technology that sorts out the diets of sea lions and killer whales to pinpoint the home garden for various varieties of vintage weed.
Good old Matanuska ThunderF***, the notorious (or, depending on your orientation, the premium) grass accumulates a certain distinctive ratio of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes as it grows in the 18-hour days of summer, accumulating a unique combination of carbon and nitrogen isotopes along the way.
So far, the team has honed its skill enough to discern whether the weed originated in Mexico or Alaska — high latitude or low, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks writer Marmian Grimes.
“They’re also working on a way to determine whether it was grown indoors or out,” Grimes wrote in a feature story posted by UAF. “A few more years and enough samples and they hope to have something even more precise: an elemental fingerprint that could tell police where and under what conditions a sample of marijuana was grown.”
“There are scientists already doing this for drugs like heroin and cocaine,” said Matthew Wooller, Alaska Stable Isotope Facility director. “The potential is there for being able to do this for marijuana as well.”