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Coming Sometime Soon to a Roadblock Near You: THC Breathalizers!

Coming Sometime Soon to a Roadblock Near You: THC Breathalizers!

Legalization in the US has led to rapid tech development of THC breathalizers

Brett Hilton Barber

10 May 2022, 22:00:00

Legalization in the US has led to rapid tech development of THC breathalizers

The legalization of cannabis in the United States is being closely tracked by the development of THC breathalizers as new rules around cannabis and driving kick in. It is only a matter of time before the technology arrives in South Africa as driving stoned will not be allowed should cannabis be legalized completely.


Vancouver-based Cannabix Technologies is the latest company to successfully develop a THC breathalizer. The company issued a statement on 9 May 2022 saying that it had conducted a study that “showed a correlation between breath samples collected and analyzed with Cannabix hardware and blood plasma levels of THC.”


The company’s handheld Breath Collection Unit and newly developed laboratory MS Breath Sampler were used together to provide a new ground-breaking method for drug detection.


“We have developed a truly ground-breaking breath analysis tool capable of breath sampling for THC, within seconds, with no sample preparation needed,” Cannabix Senior Analytical Chemist Dr Jared Boock said. “Furthermore, we were able to store, ship and analyze samples for up to 40 hours after they were taken in the field”.


Chris Halsor, a Colorado attorney with two decades of criminal law experience, told Discover Magazine that: “legalization of marijuana was a big paradigm shift for law enforcement. When it was totally illegal, if you smelled it [or] saw a roach on the floorboard of a car, that instantly got you into cars without warrants. That instantly led to arrest. Nowadays, it’s not so simple”.


The rest of this article is reproduced from Discover online:

Testing for cannabis more complicated than for alcohol

Breathalyzer-like devices that measure the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC — have popped up in various stages of development. Whereas urine tests detect the presence of marijuana up to a month after impairment subsides, and blood tests up to three weeks, breath tests have the shortest detection window of up to just two or three hours after smoking. It’s an important distinction for law enforcement, who could in theory use a positive result as evidence of driving under the influence.


The rollout comes at a pivotal moment for cannabis use, spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the UN World Drug Report 2021, stay-at-home orders and social distancing restrictions led to “cannabis users consuming cannabis more frequently and the exposure of a new segment of the population to the drug” in many countries. While marijuana markets enjoyed this business boom, however, the NHTSA reported that the number of injured drivers admitted to trauma centers with marijuana in their system rose by half in the beginning months of the pandemic, compared to the previous six months.


When it comes to alcohol, figuring out impairment is no tall task. Because humans are made of roughly 60 percent water, water-soluble alcohol disperses quickly throughout the body and is eradicated in a matter of hours. A simple ratio links the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath to the amount in their blood, and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself taking a trip to the police station if you drive with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit.


For the first few hours after you light up or eat an edible, a breathalyzer can detect the THC that is transferred from the bloodstream and into the lungs — just like alcohol.

After that, however, THC is transformed into non-psychoactive molecules called metabolites. More than 80 different metabolites are formed from THC, all of which are stored in fat, and the length of time they linger in the body depends on a variety of factors: percentage of body fat, level of tolerance, gender, and the method and type of cannabis used.


California-based Hound Labs says existing tests that detect metabolites rather than THC can’t differentiate between the person who “smoked cannabis legally and responsibly at a BBQ on Friday night, versus their colleague who smoked Monday morning on the way to work.” Its Hound Marijuana Breathalyzer is one billion times more sensitive than an alcohol breathalyzer and is expected to ship to prospective customers at the end of this year, says CEO Mike Lynn.

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