The legalization of recreational cannabis has occurred in nine states and the District of Columbia, while 30 states and D.C. have legalized medicinal marijuana. However, law enforcement throughout the United States has shown great concern about drugged driving.
To combat stoned driving, police often use field sobriety tests, drug recognition experts (DREs), and observation. However, these tactics do not determine intoxication and can even be foiled with breath mints and eye drops. Testing tools used today can take days to obtain results and can't determine whether a person has consumed marijuana a few hours ago or weeks ago.
Due to the lack of a proper testing device, Hound Labs says it has created a cannabis breathalyzer. Known as the Hound® marijuana breathalyzer, the California company claims its device can detect if a person has consumed cannabis in the last two hours, which is considered the average time frame for peak impairment.
The breathalyzer works by having the suspect blow into a small plastic tub—that is connected to a device about the size of a large smartphone—for 30 seconds. Then indicator bars begin to show if the device detects any presence of THC on the suspect's breath. Additionally, the device also measures alcohol on the suspect's breath.
The following are the benefits of the Hound® marijuana breathalyzer:
- Determines recent use of cannabis, whether it is smoked or ingested
- Provides results in a few minutes and stored for future access
- Doesn't detect pot use from days earlier
The reason why this device is accurate is that it can measure THC in breath molecules in parts per trillion since THC is significantly less concentrated than alcohol. By contrast, alcohol is measured in parts per thousand.
Alas, there are several hurdles the company and law enforcement must overcome to use the breathalyzer in future traffic stops. First, there is no federal limit to how much THC in a person's breath, saliva or blood that constitutes impairment. Second, there are still questions about when the device should be used and how the results can be used as admissible evidence in court.
Starting this fall, several cities will partner with Hound Labs to begin field testing the cannabis breathalyzer.