Marijuana Breathalyzers Could Be Available for Police Use in 2020

Two companies hope to have marijuana breath tests indicating if someone is driving while intoxicated working and ready for use by the end of 2020.

Two companies have developed roadside marijuana breath tests and are aiming to make them available for use by the end of 2020. The news first reported by the Sacramento Bee comes at a time when cannabis legalization has been introduced in some form in all but three states in the country.

According to the Sac Bee report, Hound Labs of Oakland and SannTek of Canada both are planning to have a cannabis breathalyzer out before the 2021 New Year ball drops.

Hound Labs utilized research from the University of California, San Francisco to prove the viability of marijuana breath testing. According to a news release, they got $30 million in financing to accelerate the release of the company’s new breathalyzer.

“With the publication of clinical study results validating breath as the new frontier for testing recent use of THC, investors can see the tremendous value that Hound Labs will bring to the market with its first-of-its-kind technology. We are excited to usher in a new era of more meaningful and fair drug testing now that marijuana is both medically and recreationally available to so many people,” stated Mike Lynn, Hound Labs CEO and co-founder.

Both companies are placing emphasis on producing a new product that saves time and money for law enforcement. SannTek declares on its website that its cannabis breathalyzer can produce fast results even if a driver inhales cannabis one minute before the traffic stop.

“The driver’s blood plasma THC level would have fallen 80%-90% in the first hour after ingestion, and even more so after two and a half hours. The SannTek 315 breath testing device provides results fast. No more waiting around,” the company states.

Marijuana Driving Tests

Law enforcement currently has no effective method for determining whether someone is driving under the influence of marijuana. As of now, if a police officer pulls someone over and suspects they have recently ingested cannabis, a time-consuming and expensive laboratory process is the only way to determine whether the driver is intoxicated from cannabis use.

Many law enforcement agencies have trained Drug Recognition Officers (DROs) who are given the power to determine if someone is driving while impaired by marijuana. The DROs undergo training to help them identify the signs of impairment caused by different substances.

According to a Newsweek report, if a DRO suspects that a motorist is under the influence of cannabis, the driver is taken to a hospital for blood tests identifying what substance is in their system.

The trouble with that procedure is indicating when, or how long it has been since, the suspect ingested the cannabis. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the intoxicating cannabinoid in marijuana, can stay in the body’s system and be detected for weeks, months, and even years after use, long after intoxication. Furthermore, DROs must often provide expert testimony in court, draining even more time from the agency.

There are concerns that rates of marijuana-impaired driving will increase as more states legalize marijuana. However, while the development of new, faster, and perhaps more accurate marijuana testing products are inevitable, researchers have not been able to show significant changes in crash rates from driving under the influence of cannabis after state legalization.

A 2019 report found no link between cannabis legalization and traffic fatalities. The 2018 traffic safety report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) could not identify a firm conclusion of whether crash rates changed in Colorado or Washington State post-legalization.

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