Today, there are 33 states (and counting) that allow the legal use of cannabis in some way, shape, or form. As more states legalize the recreational use of marijuana, law enforcement agencies expect updated technology to help detect those driving under the influence and ensure workplace safety.
Hound Labs of Oakland anticipates a marijuana breathalyzer by the second half of 2020, according to Mike Lynn M.D., co-founder of Hound Labs. Police officers tested the Hound Labs Breathalyzer over Labor Day weekend. Another firm, SannTek of Canada, also is racing to have a product ready in that timeline.
Establishing when marijuana was consumed as well as testing those accused of working or driving under the influence has proven to be difficult since traces of THC is still found in someone’s urine for weeks after consumption.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
According to Science Daily, The breathalyzer was developed using carbon nanotubes, tiny tubes of carbon 100,000 times smaller than a human hair. The THC molecule and other molecules in the breath, binds to the nanotubes’ surface, changing their electrical properties.
The electrical currents recover at a certain speed, if that speed changes, it’s a sign that THC is present. Nanotechnology sensors can detect THC at levels comparable to or better than mass spectrometry, which is considered the gold standard for THC detection.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE THREE-HOUR WINDOW?
Most drug tests available takes days to produce results, but the Hound Breathalyzer claims to be able to determine whether there is alcohol, THC, or both in your system in just four minutes.
Hound Labs says its test will show whether someone smoked marijuana within a three-hour window before driving. According to Mike Lynn, that is the time frame when drivers are most impaired. He cited statistics indicating that 14.8 million Americans have used marijuana within an hour of starting a car.
Both Hound Labs and SannTek devices will be used in the workplace, where employers can ensure that workers are not high on the job, and employees won’t face sanctions if they partied the day before. Most employers rely on urine tests designed 30 years ago.
It may not be as useful to police, without at least a general understanding of what amount of THC constitutes impairment. On top of that, what level is safe for driving? It took American courts several decades to settle on today’s blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.08%. Law enforcement will have a hard time enforcing a half-baked law.