The First… Marijuana Breathalyser?
The latest in cannabis news: a device that might be able to detect impairment.
A recent 2019 clinical study by Hound Labs details a new technological innovation that might define the future of marijuana regulation.
This study explored in Financial Times comes from researchers at the University of California San Francisco. Recently, they’ve discovered that Hound Labs’ breathalyzer can detect THC two or three hours after smoking.
THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the 113+ cannabinoids identified in cannabis. It is the psychoactive element in marijuana — essentially, the part that gets you “high.”
The ability to detect THC in a breathalyzer would prove groundbreaking. In theory, it could detect cannabis use in the same manner that current breathalyzers determine alcohol levels in humans.
Breathalyzers detecting impairment from marijuana use could be used for a variety of purposes from different establishments, including law enforcement, places of employment, and schools. (Staff use of marijuana is a particularly timely issue, given the increasing legality of marijuana in U.S. states and the inefficiency of company policies to adapt to these new rules.)
Hound Labs, the Oakland-based start-up company responsible for the breathalyzer study, will be competing against Cannabix Technologies to create accurate breath-testing technology.
So far, Hound Labs has raised $36 million from investors to fund sensitive breathalyzers for the detection of marijuana.
As of February 27, 2019, the clinical study is awaiting peer review to continue studies and perfect the breathalyzer for consumer usage.
How will this newest cannabis innovation fare for legal marijuana users?
The ability to detect THC in Hound Labs’ marijuana breathalyzer is detected during the period when people are most impaired. This would take place up to three hours after smoking.
The effects of marijuana, however, can be felt within a few minutes — sometimes even seconds.
The discrepancy between the delayed time (2–3 hours) it takes to detect marijuana from Hound Labs’ breathalyzer and the short time (<2 hours) it takes for individuals to feel the effects of marijuana might cause problems in using breathalyzers to curb impaired driving.
Detecting THC through the Hound Labs’ breathalyzer in its beginning stage of development might not be a reliable way to check your impairment before driving; the technology is not yet sensitive enough to detect early use.
The breathalyzer has also not been tested on detecting THC from alternative ways to smoke and consume cannabis, such as consuming edibles or vaping marijuana.
Currently, the 2019 clinical study is being submitted for peer review. Only further studies and breathalyzer technology will show the true breadth of possibilities attainable from ongoing studies in marijuana detection.