Photo Illustration by Michael Weber

Marijuana Breathalyzer Coming 2020

No pee, hair or spit. One blow is all it takes to show marijuana intoxication levels with new breathalyzer.

No pee, hair or spit. One blow is all it takes to show marijuana intoxication levels with new breathalyzer.

Marijuana has been a touchy topic since Colorado and Washington made their first moves to legalize recreational use in 2012. Since then, 29 states have followed and declared marijuana legal for medicinal and/or recreational use.

Tension forms at the discrepancy between state and federal opinion on where marijuana falls legally as a drug. The lack of legal confirmation from the federal government makes it difficult for government employers, especially police officers, to execute and process circumstances surrounding marijuana intoxication. Recent developments in marijuana detection technology suggest a breathalyzer is in the works.

Current marijuana testing requires a hair, urine or blood sample. The test results detect past use up to six months and reports the current THC level in the body. This testing proves to be unreliable as past use of marijuana will distort a current reading of bodily intoxication, which is what law officials care about.

The two technology companies racing to release their version of a more accurate breathalyzer are Hound Labs and SannTek.

Hound Labs was established five years ago and is leading the race with an expected release of late 2020. The Hound Labs breathalyzer operates on a specified time basis. It can detect marijuana if it’s been used in the last three hours. The three-hour window comes from two findings; one, marijuana is only detectable for the first three hours. Afterward, THC levels drop so low and so fast that it becomes virtually undetectable. Second, the initial three hours of intoxication are the most impaired and therefore the most crucial.

The breathalyzer method proves to be more accurate and better suited for law and medical officials, as alternative testing can take hours to produce results. In addition, this method is also beneficial to the participant, as the regulated three hour time interval doesn’t hold participants liable for past usage beyond that time frame.

If this new testing method becomes normalized, the three hours prior to testing will be the most critical, but anything before those three hours is merely tangential. Ideally, someone tested for their marijuana use could not be held liable for their marijuana use prior to the that three-hour window because the breathalyzer would not be able to detect it.

The opposing company, SannTek, and their breathalyzer the SannTek 315 will operate similarly to the Hound Labs breathalyzer. SannTek 315 is still in early development so the company is not providing much information. Like Hound Labs, their product will utilize a time interval to reveal the last ingestion of marijuana and current intoxication.

Hound Labs conducted clinical testing in 2017 in cooperation with University of California, San Francisco. However, no findings have been concluded publicly due to the small sample size. SannTek 315 lacks any formal testing or trials at this time.

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One Comment

  1. Maxwell Maxwell Tuesday, September 17, 2019

    But what about biodiversity within our species? We don’t all come with a standard metabolism, and the ratio of THC to other cannabinoids has an effect on the psychoactive/intoxicating results. What about edibles and tinctures, that don’t tend to have any noticeable effects for up to 2hrs (again, depending upon metabolism).

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