Cannabis plants show a high Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol content and are used as a psychoactive drug. Therefore the cultivation of hemp and its possession are prohibited by law in Japan. Meanwhile, Cannabis seeds have been used as a component of shichimi-togarashi (a Japanese spice), bird feed, or a crude drug (mashinin). To exclude the possibility of germination, it is officially noticed that hemp seeds must be killed. However, the number of violators has increased in recent years. To judge the ability of seed germination, a germination test is performed. However, the test requires several days and thus has not been used for on-site inspection. In this study, we developed a rapid detection method to determine the ability of Cannabis seeds to germinate using 2,3,5-triphenyl-2H-tetrazolium chloride (TTC). The principle of the assay is as follows. The endogenous respiratory enzymes in hemp seeds convert added colorless TTC into red 1,3,5-triphenylformazan. Consequently, a living embryo is stained red, while red does not appear in the dead seeds. The reaction was active over a pH range of 8.0-9.0, and the optimum activity was found from 40 to 50°C. Under the optimum conditions, we were able to determine the ability of seeds to germinate based on the presence of color within 20 min. Since this method is rapid and simple, it is applicable to on-site inspections. In addition, it could be used as an alternative technique to the germination test, because erroneous decisions is cannot occur under the assay principle.
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