No one wants to be on the road with someone incapable of operating a motor vehicle. But does smoking a joint and driving an hour later guarantee impairment? For some, it may, but for others, it may not. Unlike alcohol, measuring someone’s intoxication level on cannabis is quite difficult. While it is safe to say that anyone with a blood/alcohol level of .08 is intoxicated, there isn’t a specific number that can be placed on compounds from cannabis within the blood that guarantees intoxication.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is quite difficult to “establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects.”
The Company Who May Make the Breakthrough
Hound Labs announced in April that they had “created the world’s first marijuana and alcohol breathalyzer for employer and law enforcement use.” Coincidentally, Mike Lyon, the founder of Hound Labs is a reserve deputy sheriff. Like many law enforcement officers, it seems that Lyon isn’t up to date in his knowledge surrounding cannabis consumption and driving.
He admittedly stated that he had not read recent studies, including the largest to date, surrounding the very issue his product is supposed to address. Hound Labs has been reportedly working on THC breathalyzer technology since at least 2015.
The Largest Study to Date on Cannabis Consumption and Impaired Driving
The largest study evaluating THC via the breath was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco. In this trial study, 20 cannabis consuming participants were asked to get high and their breath was then tested for the presence of THC. The participants were tested 9 times in total over the course of 3 hours.
According to Benzinga, during this trial study, “Hound Labs were able to detect that THC is present in breath two to three hours after smoking cannabis, which represents the peak impairment according to government studies. This was the first time that THC was detected in breath.”
So, Will LEOs Soon Have Accurate Tech to Catch Stoned Drivers?
While the company states they have created the first breathalyzer for THC, it seems the only ones that have access to them is the University of California at San Francisco where the trial studies first took place. Even if released, you can be sure without solid scientific proof backing its validity, there will be much static from cannabis patients, consumers, and activists regarding this topic.