A company based in California said that it has created a marijuana breathalyzer test that police can potentially use to detect whether drivers are high while on the road. This is the first breathalyzer test of its kind.
Oakland-based Hound Labs developed the device because they wanted to make testing for weed as easy and convenient as testing for alcohol.
The need for a marijuana breathalyzer test
As more states in the U.S. legalize cannabis, either for medical or for recreational purposes, law enforcement officials are also increasingly concerned about impaired driving, or driving under the influence of the drug. And the problem is that until now, police officers do not have the roadside means to test and determine whether a person had consumed cannabis while behind the wheel.
Even when testing for marijuana, police officers depend on field sobriety test devices that have been developed to detect alcohol. That or they rely on personal observation, which is influenced by bias and deception.
This is why a device that’s designed to detect tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is necessary. THC is the main psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis and is what creates the high and the euphoria.
Hound Labs CEO Mike Lynn said that the device uses a disposable cartridge. This cartridge can detect cannabis consumption within the past two hours, which is believed to be the time period for THC’s full effects to kick in.
According to Lynn, when THC is found in a person’s breath, he or she surely smoked cannabis in the last couple of hours. And people who have THC in their systems should not be driving within this time period. Not only that, but they should not be within a work site when they are in construction zone.
Meanwhile, in Canada….
Canada is set to launch its new regulations for legal recreational cannabis this October. But when it comes to implementing its rules against impaired driving, the Canadian government plans for the police to start using roadside saliva tests to check for marijuana.
Saliva tests are simple: officers just need to swab a driver’s mouth so they could test for the presence of THC in the saliva.
The device for testing saliva is currently awaiting the Justice Department’s approval.
Cannabis driving stats
An August 2017 report by The Denver Post analyzed state and federal data pertaining to traffic fatalities in Colorado linked to pot use. According to the report, the number of drivers involved in fatal road accidents in Colorado who also tested positive for cannabis rose sharply each year since 2013.
Colorado legalized medical cannabis in November 2012 and recreational cannabis in January 2014.
Industry analysts, however, argued that this data is not precise because blood tests were used to detect THC in the system. They explained that, unlike alcohol, THC can be detected in the blood stream for days or weeks — long after the “high” and impairment have worn off.