Marijuana Breathalysers May Soon Help Police Nab Drug Impaired Drivers

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( — September 18, 2019) — A breathalyser devise to test for marijuana use in drivers and workers may arrive as soon as 2020, a manufacture ring start-up based in Oakland, California, recently stated. The start-up, called Hound Labs, is fiercely competing with several other firms to produce the world’s first breath-based weed detector. 

The idea behind the device is simple—invent a device that can easily and cost effectively test whether a subject has consumed marijuana in the past three hours. Such a breathalyser already exists to check for alcohol consumption. Several countries and jurisdictions now also test for marijuana, which is known to impair driving. 

Safer Roads and Workplaces

The rush to develop a marijuana breathalyser intensifies as countries and states decriminalise the recreational use of the plant. Driving after smoking weed within at least a three hour window would garner a citation for DUI in Ontario

Hound Labs, founded by a physician, wants the pot breathalyser to be available as soon as possible to make both roads and workplaces safer. 

The Difficulty of Producing a Reliable Marijuana Test 

Currently, the Canadian police administer what’s called a standardized field sobriety test (SFST) to test for weed consumption. It’s done by taking an oral fluid sample from the suspect. There’s another test, called drug recognition evaluation (DRE), which uses a blood sample to provide more definitive results. DRE is used when SFST tests can be unreliable, according to Vaughan DUI lawyers.

Administering the SFST and the DRE poses unique challenges to police. DRE, for example, requires taking a suspect to a hospital. With the hassle, the police may not even bother with it. Then there’s the overall uncertainty regarding checking for marijuana in the body. 

With alcohol breathalysers, it’s easier for police to test for a percentage of alcohol in the body. It’s not as straightforward as that to establish marijuana use. Unlike alcohol, marijuana can remain in the body for longer. However, to be legally impaired to drive, the suspect must have smoked weed within a three-hour window, when the drug is most likely to make a driver less alert. 

With marijuana tests, the bodily samples are tested for the presence of THC, the cannabinoids largely responsible for creating the feel-good vibes associated with marijuana. So a marijuana breathalyser test is really a test for THC content in the body. 

Even when tests prove positive for marijuana use, defence attorneys sometimes argue the consumption was done a day or so before, and not right before the suspect driver got into the car. Researchers are competing to design a breathalyser that would indicate whether a suspect has consumed marijuana within a three hour timeframe. 

The Current State of Marijuana Impairment

There’s demand for a marijuana breathalyser not just by the police, but also from employers such as trucking companies and construction sites. A device invented by a Canadian nanotechnology engineer claims it’s already capable of identifying whether someone has smoked weed within three hours. This device has yet to enter widespread use. 

Police and employers want a reliable and fast test that’s easy to perform on the road or on site. A test, once available, would benefit both law enforcement, employers, and workplaces as well. A weed breathalyser test could eliminate uncertainty regarding exactly when an individual has consumed marijuana, leading to fewer erroneous arrests and firings.