The Latest on Pot Detection Devices

The Latest on Pot Detection Devices

While (medical) marijuana is legal in many states, driving while stoned is not. To test if someone is under the influence of a drug other than alcohol, many devices have been developed and tested. Some have failed, while others appear to be effective.

It goes without saying that drugged driving is very dangerous and (rightly) illegal. But did you know that until not so long ago, law enforcement agents had to take you into custody in order to test you for marijuana? Spurred by law enforcement’s need to detect and analyze the amount of THC in someone’s system in minutes, several companies have entered the race to come up with the world’s first reliable marijuana detection device.  

Testing Troubles

Testing for alcohol impairment has been very easy for a long time, but catching someone who’s high is a bit more tedious. Officers have to look for signs of drug use by simple observation. As you can imagine, checking if someone can stand on one leg isn’t as effective as using a professionally developed device.

Last year, a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) outlined the difficulties in developing a trustworthy device to detect THC. While detecting recent THC consumption is rather easy, detecting impairment is something completely different.

According to the NHTSA, some studies “have attempted to estimate the risk of driving after marijuana use, but these remain inconclusive in terms of predicting real-world crash risk.”

While there’s a correlation between the amount of alcohol in someone’s breath and the degree of impairment, there’s no such correlation for THC. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a debate about the actual effectiveness of these devices.

The Latest Models

• CBD isn’t psychoactive, but THC is. That’s why new marijuana breathalyzers focus on the presence of THC, as well as other drugs such as cocaine. Oakland-based Hound Labs wants to “make testing for marijuana as easy as testing for alcohol.” Drivers woul blow into the device, and the disposable cartridge would analyze their breath. A positive result for THC would mean the driver used marijuana in the last two hours.

• In Canada, a saliva test has been developed and is currently waiting for approval from the nation’s Justice Department, according to the National Post. One key advantage of the test is that is can detect THC for up to six hours after consumption.

While these devices are mainly being developed for law enforcement to use during traffic stops, they could also be useful at the workplace. Construction workers, bus drivers, and people handling heavy machinery can be a great risk to themselves and others if they are high on any type of drug during their work. As we've mentioned previously, an effective breathalyzer (or similar) device could be the legal marijuana industry’s best friend.

Stay tuned to the Sugar Leaf for updates.