By Keith Mansur
Oregon Cannabis Connection.
Sept 14, 2016 – Hound Labs, a start-up technology company from California, has teamed up with University of California chemists to develop a now functional breathalyzer for marijuana. The device was recently tested on impaired drivers, possibly by the Alameda County Sheriff, where the head of the company is also a reserve officer on the force.
Mike Lynn, the CEO of Hound Labs, helped to pull over drivers for the initial field tests where drivers were tested for impairment. He claims his device was validated in the field, indicating two of the drivers had much higher “intoxication” readings than the others, and that both drivers admitted to smoking marijuana in the past 30 minutes. No one was arrested for cannabis intoxication.
“Basically everyone agreed because they were curious,” Lynn said. “We were not trying to arrest people. … Sure, we could arrest people and people are arrested every day for driving stoned, but 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.”
They did arrest a drunk driver during the field tests.
The challenges they now face are to confirm their results in the laboratory with other, independent equipment, and to determine what is considered a “intoxicating” amount of THC, if that can be done at all. Part of that analysis will include drivers navigating obstacle courses while “stoned” to try and determine those levels, something that has been done before with surprising results.
In 2015 the University of Iowa conducted a study of drivers that had consumed marijuana and then tested their driving acumen on a closed obstacle course. In that study researchers found stoned drivers were actually safer drivers than completely sober ones. IN fact, a number of studies have shown little to no significant impairment on driving ability for stoned drivers.
A number of other detection products are under development, including a saliva test, and fingerprint “sweat” test, and other breathalyzer devices such as The Drug Test 5000, Cannabix Breathalyzer, and Smartox. All these products, including the Hound Labs detector, will need to be validated both scientifically and in court.
“With breath it doesn’t matter if you smoke every day, if you haven’t smoked in several hours we are not going to pick it up, and it correlates with when people are most impaired,” explained Lynn. “You get the inadvertent and really unfair arrest of people who test positive and aren’t really impaired. What we’re trying to do is balance public safety with fairness.”
© 2016 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.