New breathalyzer could help detect pot-impaired drivers

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Law enforcement officers would soon have access to breathalyzer that could tell if drivers are under the influence of marijuana, says Amanda Hoover reporting for Government Technology.  This device would be released by Hounds Lab, in the year 2020.

For the police, catching stoned drivers has always been next to impossible. When the police stop a driver suspected to be under the influence of alcohol, a breathalyzer is easily used to confirm whether the suspect is impaired by alcohol. However, there is no such device for marijuana. For this reason, many cities are clueless about how to keep drivers who are under the influence of marijuana, off the road.

Hound Labs, a Northern California-based firm, plans to launch THC-sensing breathalyzers in 2020. The device would cost $5,000 for a unit and an additional $20 for each cartridge needed for a test. Vice President of the company, Doug Boxer says that this new invention was made necessary by the fact that police officers and employers do not have any reliable methods to determine if someone has used marijuana.

Concerned parties have always opposed the legalization of marijuana, worried about the apparent lack of measures for catching drivers who operate a vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. Despite of this opposition, several American states have decriminalized marijuana, making it harder for police officers to arrest citizens driving under the influence of marijuana.

As of date, there’s no widely-accepted way to measure cannabis intoxication, officers are, however, trained to identify a stoned driver in the field just by observing their behavior. Since there is no legal limit for what constitutes impairment, many cases of people driving under the influence of pot get thrown out, leading to a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Offenders would usually hire very experienced DUI Defense Attorneys to help them fight the charges.

This new breathalyzer to be released by Hound Labs in 2020would be able to pick up the presence of THC in a person’s breath, within three hours of consuming marijuana. It would also be able to measure blood-alcohol level.

The device would be unable to measure the level of marijuana in a person’s breathing, however, Boxer says this doesn’t matter because, with weed, impairment depends on how recently it was consumed, not how much of it is found in your body.

New Jersey police remain cautiously optimistic about the innovation. Chris Leusner, the police chief in Middle Township and president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police quoted on Government Technology, says he needs to see more expert reviews of the new technology. He says he is worried that if the device is not sufficiently backed by rigorous scientific research, evidence obtained from it might still not be admissible in court. Leusner also raised the issue of how traces of THC can stay in a person’s system for several weeks, making blood tests unreliable.

There are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed regarding driving while under the influence of marijuana, this includes the following questions. What constitutes marijuana impairment? And what is the cut-off point after which it could be accepted that a driver is stoned?