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5 Things We Need a Breathalyzer For Other Than THC

Man posing with middle finger raised in front of a NYPD squad car

“Instead of the war on poverty, they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.”

Traffic stops are easily shrugged off as a routine occurrence for some drivers, but for Black people and other POC, it’s potentially a precursor to doomsday. Driving While Black is daunting when members of the police force have historically been motivated by racism. They’ve proven to serve and protect with fear at the base of their bias. 

Now that weed is recreationally legal in eleven states plus the District of Columbia, Hound Labs in Oakland (as well as Sanntek in Canada) are racing to have a breathalyzer on the market by the first half of 2020.

According to Hound Labs, there’s only a three-hour window to detect THC in someone’s breath after consumption. You are considered impaired if any amount is detected while you’re behind the wheel.

Pulling people over who officers believe just finished smoking weed before driving is problematic. The fact that this is a priority as if there aren’t enough heroin and meth addicts driving, I mean, nodding off behind the wheel between work and soccer-mom activities, is telling.

There is still debate about what amount of THC on the breath, in blood, or in saliva that constitutes impairment. Law enforcement will have a hard time enforcing a half-baked law. The most common interaction between the police and the public are traffic stops, so the legal parameters need to be crystal clear. Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, twice as likely to be searched by police, and twice as likely to be given no reason at all for the traffic stop.

These blindspots add zeros and commas to the bank accounts of tech companies. They aren’t concerned with the facts, because it doesn’t affect them or impact their bottom line. THC Breathalyzers shouldn’t be in the hands of law enforcement agencies known for discrimination against black and brown communities. We’re tired of our bodies being used as batteries to energize the criminal justice system.

In this political climate, when black people are viewed as sheets of paper attached to target control systems, a DUI inspection can end with your family financing trips to the commissary or making funeral arrangements.

Advice to People of Color: Don’t drive under the influence of anything. 

None of this is to say we don’t need THC breathalyzers, it’s just an interesting focus while we’re still in the midst of a supposed opioid crisis. Hound Labs and Sanntek confirmed the demand is coming from blue-collar businesses where employers can ensure that workers are not high on the job, and employees won’t face sanctions for turning up the day before. This quick test could be a life savior for someone who smoked a day ago versus someone who did 30 minutes before reporting to work at a construction site.

Since we’re concerned about the safety of our roads and workplaces, here’s a small list of other threats to look out for while in traffic or anywhere else. Maybe this will inspire someone to build a product that detects this shit before we ever have to engage.

  1. Bitch-ass, trigger-happy cops. The ones with the predisposition to catch-a-nigga-kill-a-nigga. The ones who replace empathy with apathy when Black people and other POC are involved. Police officers too often see black people as criminals even when following the law. No one wants to die at the hands of a community servant. Absolutely, NO ONE wants to die at the hands of a community servant while doing normal shit, like visiting your nephew.

  2. Well-meaning white women. The ones who whip the shit, then ugly-cry once the smell becomes unbearable to them, which is usually immediate. The white women who’ll fight for equality as long as it doesn’t threaten their privilege. On the outside looking in, they mean well and they probably believe it with every bit of consciousness they have. Most of the time, though, it’s at the mercy of someone else’s livelihood or normalcy. Most of the time, it’s a symptom of gentrification and they’re pawns pushing an agenda they aren’t aware they’re a party to. They mean so well that they become vigilantes of preserving American civility. They know you need a permit to sell water, and they know where the use of charcoal is permitted for the sake of “community health,” but will draw a blank when you ask them if they know the black/brown neighbors they’re displacing.
  3. Codeine, Morphine, Heroin, Vicodin. Why won’t the tools of the capitalist bourgeois create something to detect these? Opioid abuse could benefit from the same police energy since it deserves immediate government intervention and widespread pandemonium. There are no large, randomized studies directly examining the risks of driving while on opioids.
  4. Fuckboys. I can just see God now — sitting in her lounge chair, melanin glowing radiantly and absorbing all that shines, hair styled in a bomb-ass two-strand twist out while eating grapes of the universe and sipping a chilled glass of White Tears thinking, “Let’s go ahead and deliver the world from fuckboys” (those affected by them too; pick me’s). She seems to be running on CPT.
  5. Anti-weed folx. We get it. It took decades of anti-weed propaganda to legally criminalize a completely harmless and useful plant, so it’ll take decades to undo. Cannabis deserves better. There’s a wealth of knowledge that counters every argument against legalization for both medicinal and recreational uses. Either people are willfully ignorant and loud or have an ulterior agenda.

The list can go on. However, America should find a way to address its history of using the police as a tool to reinforce systems of racial inequity. When white people see other white people fucking up, they see someone that could be themselves. They see someone that could be their son, their daughter, their wife or husband, or their niece or nephew. They see someone who still has potential. They see someone who just needs a bit of fixing up then they’ll be good as new again.

When They see black (or nonblack POC) fucking up, They see none of those things. Empathy is replaced with apathy. There is no potential for you to turn the corner. You’re just a person with darker skin who fulfills the stereotypical tropes repeatedly played out in the media.

Supporting Black/brown people inside and outside the confines of capitalism will always be a top priority.

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