Marijuana Breathalyzers and How They Will Influence Legalization
A big problem facing marijuana legalization is the regulation and enforcement of impaired driving after consumption of any marijuana product. The reason this is a problem is because detecting marijuana on the breath, like you can do with alcohol, is extremely hard. While alcohol lingers in your lungs, saliva, and mouth for a few hours, marijuana can last for days, weeks, or even months. In other words, the roadside impairment tests currently in use cannot prove that you are under the influence at that moment in time. They alert for any marijuana usage within the past few days or weeks, making the tests too unreliable to actually use.
The answer to this problem? Hound Labs Inc. They have created a test which they boast is “one billion times more sensitive than today’s alcohol breathalyzers”. Hound Labs Inc. wanted to created a marijuana breathalyzer for a multitude of reasons, one being that the only way police can currently determine if someone is under the influence of drugs is by field sobriety tests, which are not totally accurate. Also, the Colorado Department of Transportation conducted a study in 2017 which yielded results that state that almost 70% of cannabis users have driven under the influence within the past year, while 27% of those studied claimed they drove under the influence almost every day. Because of this staggering statistic and the amount of motor vehicle related deaths that happen every day, it makes sense that someone would want to develop a device which can reduce those numbers. However, there are some problems with the test. One being, that it is determined from breath and saliva. The problem with this is that the police do not know how much marijuana the person consumed, only how recently it was that they consumed it. On top of this problem, there is the problem of the legal limit. Extensive research has been done to conclude that someone above a blood alcohol content of .08 is legally impaired and can not operate a vehicle, but what is that limit with someone under the influence of marijuana? What happens if someone blows a .01 or a .25? Hound Labs claims that a solution to this problem is the device's time constraints. The breathalyzer can only detect marijuana in the breath up to 2 hours after use, and after 3 hours, it does not show up on the test at all. Still, this is not conclusive that someone is impaired due to the fact that the device cannot determine how much marijuana the person actually consumed, whether it be one puff of a joint or five entire joints. As of right now, more development must be done before police across the states actually employ Hound Labs marijuana breathalyzer.
The device still has the most potential for a marijuana related breathalyzer. In a few more years, this device may be perfected, especially due to the fact that so many states have begun legalizing marijuana recreationally and the police are in a rut when it comes to successfully determining if a person is under the influence of marijuana or not. Louisa Ashord, the marketing manager for Hound Labs Inc., said 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”. We hope that when this device is finally utilized by police nationwide, it will reduce the amount of traffic accidents and traffic related deaths in states with legalized recreational marijuana.