Author: Shernide Delva
As more and more states legalize marijuana, there has been a concern on how to monitor impaired driving. Now, police are testing a marijuana breathalyzer on drivers for the first time. The device is manufactured by Hounds Labs and CEO Mike Lynn who is an emergency room doctor in Oakland, California, and a reserve officer with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.
Lynn began pulling over drivers suspected of impaired driving during the initial field tests. However, the use of the breathalyzer was optional.
“Basically everyone agreed because they were curious,” Lynn told US News & World Report. “The objective was not to put people in jail but to educate them and use the device if they volunteered so we could get the data.”
All the drivers tested were not arrested, but they were required to find another ride home. The Hounds Labs breathalyzer can detect marijuana (smoked or ingested) as well as alcohol. Lynn says his breathalyzer can even measure the concentration of the drug. In the past, other technology could only detect THC.
“It’s not as if every breathalyzer will be replaced overnight [but] it will completely change the ability to recognize stoned drivers,” said Lynn last year, “[and] our technology also will prevent the wrongful arrest of people who have some THC in their system but are not impaired.”
Last year, Alameda County Sherriff Greg Ahern told US News that he is eager to use the new breathalyzer.
“Current methods for testing THC are not practical for the roadside,” Ahern said. “On top of that, results can take weeks and will only tell us if marijuana is in a person’s system. By measuring THC in breath, Hound Labs, Inc. will help us get impaired drivers off the road and also make sure that unimpaired individuals who happen to have some THC in their system aren’t wrongfully arrested.”
Lynn hopes to have the breathalyzers distributed within the next six months. Hounds Labs is not the only one working on this new technology, though, however, it is the closest to market. Another company, Cannabix Technologies said in a July press release that they are working on a reduced size version of their product.
Other devices like Intelligent Fingerprinting detect traces of sweat from one’s fingertips. Their device is likely to come out next year, according to US News.
“We do have a significant stable of cities and counties that are interested in piloting and thus validating our product for roadside [driving under the influence of drugs] stops,” said Duffy Nabors, vice president of sales and marketing at Smartox, the company that distributes the fingerprint technology.
How does marijuana affect driving?
With all this new technology to test drivers, the next question is how much does marijuana impair drivers? The exact impact of marijuana on driving ability remains a controversial subject. However, while drunk driving is on the decline, driving after consuming marijuana has become more prevalent.
The next question is if there can be a threshold established for marijuana in the same way that alcohol’s threshold is .08. Several studies have been conducted to find out the level of THC that is needed to impair driving ability; however a threshold has yet to be established.
As for driving, marijuana can impair a person’s judgment, motor coordination, the ability to concentrate, and slows down a person’s reaction time. Therefore, using marijuana while driving does pose a significant risk and increases the chance of an accident occurring.
Overall, while more and more states are in the voting stages of marijuana reform, impaired driving remains a serious problem. Driving under the influence of any substance is a major no-no. Do not take this risk. If you are struggling with addiction, do not wait. Call today.