The recent drugs haul and other illegal substances that are detected and confiscated by Police and Customs are then analysed in a laboratory at the University which is equipped with the necessary technology, including that of establishing the purity of the consignment. According to Professor Emmanuel Sinagra, purity is not the only factor that determines its market price because this is subject to supply and demand as well.
Substances are analysed at the chromatographic laboratory and to explain the process Professor Sinagra said most people are familiar with putting a few drops of food colouring or ink on paper and seeing this spread in different forms. That is where the process starts. The Professor heads the Chemistry Department at the University.
He said the process involves the use of three advanced technology machines. The substance is injected into the first machine which functions using a coil known as a ‘column’ and this heats the substance to a temperature of 300 Degrees Celsius while being pumped by gases which extract substances.
The Professor said that however is not the whole of the process because then the fingerprints of the substances have to be checked similar to several persons racing around a circuit and then one has to decide the winner, say somebody named Hamilton and then this person’s ID has to be checked to certify the winner, and that is what we get.
As a back-up to ensure that the results obtained in the first part of the process are correct, another test is carried out in another machine. Finally the results are analysed to establish purity.
According to a European drugs report the purity of cannabis resin that finds its way to Malta varies between four and 11%, cocaine between 10 and 22% and heroin between 15 and 30%.
Professor Sinagra said the price may or may not vary according to purity. According to the latest drug report the price of cannabis resin in Malta stands at €30 a gram.
The University’s Head of Chemistry said a block of cannabis resin, or a bar of soap as it is sometimes referred to, does not have many other things added to it, like what is known as kafà, paracetamol, sugar or other substances that are mixed into cocaine and heroin.