A California company has developed a breathalyzer that can detect both alcohol and THC levels in a person's breath. Can the device help keep the roads safe?
The Hound Breathalyzer
A California company, Hound Labs, has developed what they call the “world’s first marijuana and alcohol breathalyzer.” The device is much like the typical breathalyzer currently being used by police officers across the country, except that it detects both alcohol and THC levels. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana.
As a breathalyzer, the device can collect samples without having to collect urine, oral fluid, and blood. It is quick, as it releases results in just minutes, and can determine marijuana use in the last two hours. It also automatically collects two samples for testing: the first sample for immediate processing, and a second sample for processing later on.
The current tests in the market often require blood or urine and may take days to process. They also do not really determine whether the marijuana was smoked hours or days before, which is quite problematic since THC tends to stay in the system for up to a month after use.
Can The Breathalyzer Help Keep Roads Safe?
So far, there is no consensus still on what level of THC renders a user impaired. In fact, only seven states have so far determined a level of THC that would make an individual a danger on the road, but many scientists are still skeptical.
In the case of the Hound Breathalyzer, the company conducted hundreds of researches on the correlation between THC in the breath and the impairment window established by researchers worldwide, which is two to three hours after marijuana use.
Because THC levels cannot be as easily detected in the breath as alcohol, which is measured in parts per thousand, the company designed the device to detect THC levels in parts per trillion.
The topic, however, remains a complicated one particularly with each state having their own laws on medical and recreational marijuana use and with conflicting research results related to it.
“They're not in the business of arresting people that are not impaired when it comes to marijuana. That makes no sense at all,” said Mike Lyn, Hound Labs CEO, regarding police efforts to determine the drivers who are potentially impaired and those who are not because they smoked marijuana already days or even weeks ago.
A 2017 federal research even determined stoned driving to be safer than drunk driving. That said, drugged driving still adds to drunk driving in the number of car crashes. A recent study revealed that more and more drivers who are killed in car crashes are testing positive for drugs such as opioids and marijuana.
As such, several police departments are already set to test the company’s breathalyzer this fall.