A new device developed by Oakland-based Hound Labs can detect whether a driver has smoked marijuana in the last two hours — a peak impairment timeframe — according to a recent report on NPR.
The device is designed to determine whether or not THC — the psychoactive component in pot — is in a person's breath. It can also double as an alcohol breathalyzer, providing law enforcement officials with a dual-tool for detecting intoxicants.
The new pot breathalyzer consists of three parts, including a handheld breathalyzer, an independent cartridge with a mouthpiece for taking breath samples that plug into it, and a processing unit, according to Car and Driver.
After the police officer takes the breath sample, he or she loads a cartridge into the processing unit, and in approximately four minutes, the results are in. The immediacy trumps any currently used method for testing for pot as today's blood, saliva and urine tests can take several days for a result.
Hound Labs says its goal is to provide law enforcement with "objective data at the roadside, just like we have for alcohol," reports NPR.
Even so, the sticky wicket that continues to challenge law enforcement nationwide is how to decide what level of THC constitutes impairment for driving. While Hound Labs' machine detects the presence of THC in the breath, it cannot calculate the amount of THC consumed, notes NPR.
Also, there is still no agreement among key stakeholders on what level of THC constitutes functional impairment. To date, only seven states, including Washington and Montana, have set legal guidelines as to how much THC in the system renders a motorist dangerous.
In the remainder of the nation, courts, police and scientists haven't been able to agree on which THC level translates into functional impairment, reports NPR.
Even so, the new pot breathalyzer holds promise. As legalization of both recreational and medical marijuana continues to sweep the nation, police are concerned about stoned drivers.
Consider, for example, Massachusetts where public safety officials recently joined forces with Sira Naturals, a marijuana business, in an effort to cut down on drugged driving, reports Masslive.com.
While Sira Naturals launched a public service announcement spotlighting the hazards of impaired driving, Massachusetts's officials debuted a public education and enforcement campaign. The objective of the education campaign is to urge pot smokers to use alternatives to driving such as public transit, designated drivers or ride-hailing services, reports the Hearld-Whig.
The first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in Massachusetts in 2015. About a year later, the state broadly legalized marijuana for ages 21 and over. Home growing and gifting is allowed within limits. The first recreational marihuana shops are slated to open in the state in the coming weeks, according to reports.