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California Company Introduces First Ever Pot Breathalyzer

Aug 07, 2018 12:18 AM EDT
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Hound Labs has created a tool to help law enforcement detect recent marijuana smokers: the pot breathalyzer. The company is aiming to make it available in the market by 2019.
(Photo : Michael Moriarty | Pixabay)

Marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states and countries, measures to regulate its use are cropping up as well.

Police and citizens are particularly concerned over the prospect of marijuana-impaired drivers taking to the road and potentially endangering other lives.

Enter, the pot breathalyzer.

Meet The Pot Breathalyzer

According to NPR, there are currently limited technology available to spot impairment from pot. Officers simply observe or do field sobriety tests, which can easily mask intoxication.

This new device is expected to make implementation of pot use and driving rules easier.

California-based company Hound Labs has designed a handy breathalyzer that is able to detect THC, which is the psychoactive component in marijuana. It is reportedly capable of catching people who have smoked pot in the last two hours.

Results are available within minutes upon testing.

"When you find THC in breath, you can be pretty darn sure that somebody smoked pot in the last couple of hours," Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs, tells NPR. "And we don't want to have people driving during that time period or, frankly, at a work site in a construction zone."

Lynn explains that it took their company five years to overcome the scientific hardships and produce an accurate machine that can reportedly identify THC in breath molecules in parts per trillion. Hound Labs' pot breathalyzer can detect THC presence, although it cannot tell how much was consumed.

The device is also an alcohol breathalyzer, so officers do not have to carry two separate machines on the road.

It comes with a carry-on cartridge that helps the device with temperature regulation.

The Difficulties In Marijuana Detection

Marijuana regulation is quite tricky, not just because it is difficult to detect, but also because it stays in the body for up to one month after using. Plus, there's no proven way to see if the drug was consumed just several hours ago or a few weeks ago.

However, while THC can be detected in the blood stream for weeks after use, its resulting impairment or psychoactive effects wear off after a few hours.

In a report from Denver Post in 2017, former deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association Taylor West explains the obstacles in determining the relationship between car crashes and pot use.

"Unlike alcohol, THC can remain detectable in the blood stream for days or weeks, when any impairment wears off in a matter of hours," West points out. "So all those numbers really tell us is that, since legal adult-use sales began, a larger number of people are consuming cannabis and then, at some point ... (are) driving a car."

Hound Labs' breathalyzer only detects marijuana consumption within two hours or so, which is roughly the length of time the "high" lasts as well.

Police will start field tests for the breathalyzer in the coming fall. Hound Labs hopes to begin selling the device to law enforcement by early 2019.

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