Marijuana Breathalyzer Field Tests to Begin this Fall

officer tests woman with marijuana breathalyzer

OAKLAND, Calif. – A new way to detect marijuana on a driver's breath is on the way and police nationwide will soon be testing out the new device, according to NPR. Police officers would be able to test drivers on the spot with the marijuana breathalyzer because it can detect THC in the breath within four minutes.

The marijuana breathalyzer can test the breath for THC, but it cannot determine the amount of marijuana consumed or the amount of impairment in a driver. Marijuana can remain in the system for more than 30 days, but the manufacturer of the device says that the breathalyzer can determine if marijuana was consumed within two hours. Police would still need to determine the level of impairment with standard sobriety tests in addition to the device. The marijuana breathalyzer is made by Hound Labs in Oakland and the company plans to begin selling the breathalyzer in 2019.

The Boston Police Department will be one of the first law enforcement departments that will participate in testing the new device. They have partnered up with the breathalyzer company to begin testing the machine in the field sometime this fall.

Law enforcement officials are anxious to find an effective way to test drivers for drugged driving after the Governor's Highway Safety Association found that 44 percent of all traffic fatalities were due to drugged driving in 2016. Only 38 percent of road fatalities were the result of drunk drivers by comparison.

Police Commissioner William Evans said that drugged driving is a problem in big in Boston. "It’s going to be a major issue in our city as more and more motorists drive after the legalization of recreational pot," adding that he was against legalizing recreational marijuana but now that it is legal, law enforcement needed the device to fight driver impairment.

The California Highway Patrol Enforcement and Planning Division wants more scientific and legal documentation that the device is accurate. Assistant Chief Kevin Davis says while such a device would be ideal, they are waiting to see more evidence.

In the meantime, the California Highway Patrol officers will attend the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program. The course lasts for 16 hours and will include training in the field that will teach officers how to do cognitive testing to determine physical impairment of weed and hard drugs.

Mike Lynn is the CEO of Hound Labs, an emergency room doctor, and a SWAT reserve sheriff. He says that he knows the importance of keeping impaired drivers off the road and spent several years perfecting the device. The marijuana breathalyzer must remain at a consistent temperature to work efficiently and has a protective case to keep it regulated in extreme temperatures.

The Marijuana Breathalyzer Can Detect Both Alcohol and Weed Accurately

The marijuana breathalyzer can also detect alcohol on a driver's breath, making the device an even more ideal device for law enforcement. Lynn says that the breathalyzer is an important element in collecting roadside data with the same efficacy as we collect data on alcohol impairment.

Davis is eager to learn the results of the data complied with law enforcement divisions who participate in testing the new device. He says that he hopes that the breathalyzer is effective because if it does work, it would be an extremely beneficial tool for patrol officers to keep both drunk and drugged drivers off the roads. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association says that rating drugged driving it at least as important, if not more important, than rating drunk driving.