In a first-of-its-kind product, a company has managed to develop a breathalyzer capable of determining of drivers have been consuming marijuana. It could roll out in select cities across the country this fall. With nine states, and the District of Columbia, now with legal pot laws, a California-based company created a pot breathalyzer it says will hold drivers accountable and make the roads safer.
Hound Labs Incorporated claims its device hyper sensitive, so much so that it is able to detect any potential THC present on a driver’s breath. On its website, the company says that, “The Hound breathalyzer is one billion times more sensitive than today’s alcohol breathalyzers.” This is good news for everybody, except those who endanger others by driving inebriated on the roads.
Back in 2017, the Colorado Department of Transportation conducted a survey that found nearly 70 percent of weed users admitting that they drove high at least once in the last year. At least 27 percent of those surveyed say that they drive “high” nearly every day. Currently, officers suspicious of a driver are only able to test their hunches with field sobriety tests.
Officers can also take breath, blood, and urine samples if they suspect a driver is “high,” but these tests are completely inaccurate when testing for marijuana. This is because these tests can only establish whether a driver was “high” within the last week. They are incapable of determining conclusively if drivers are “high” in the moment that they are operating their vehicles.
Enforcement tools, such as Hound Lab’s alcohol-and-marijuana breathalyzer or Canadian-based company Cannabix Technologies Incorporated’s roadside saliva testing device, attempt to determine objectively the impairment of a driver, rather than forcing intrusive tests or basing evidence on the judgment of an officer.
Across the United States, under law, drivers with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 0.08 percent are either drunk or otherwise inebriated. However, there are some complexities where marijuana is concerned. For example, what exactly qualifies a driver as being under the influence of weed, or being “pot impaired,” is a subject of much debate in scientific circles.
For Hound Lab’s new breathalyzers, timing marks that qualification. Although the company’s breathalyzers are unable to establish how much weed is in a person’s system, it is able to determine how long ago that person consumed cannabis. THC remains on the breath only during the “peak window of impairment,” which, according to Hound Lab, is up to two hours after consuming or smoking weed.
At three hours after smoking, the company’s research finds that THC levels in breath samples drop to zero. When a driver blows into the breathalyzer, it is able to determine the presence of THC, alcohol, or both, within a matter of minutes. Since THC can only be present on a driver’s breath during that peak two-hour window period, the driver is obviously impaired if the breathalyzer tests positive.
If it detects THC, the breathalyzer will display “Warning.” If not, it will say, “Pass.” According to a statement made by Louisa Ashord, marketing manager for Hound Lab, the device “will help ensure safety on our roads and in the workplace, while also promoting fairness to people who use marijuana legally and responsibly.”