- Title: That last toke for the road could be a downer with pot breathalyzers coming
- Date: 23rd October 2019
- Summary: NEWARK, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HOUND LABS CEO MIKE LYNN TALKING ABOUT THE BREATHALYZER WHILE HIS COLLEAGUE DEMONSTRATES IT VARIOUS OF HOUND LABS EMPLOYEE BLOWING INTO BREATHALYZER TO DEMONSTRATE HOW IT WORKS (SOUNDBITE) (English) MIKE LYNN, HOUND LABS CEO, SAYING: "So I started Hound Labs six years ago with my co-founders because it was becoming clear that legalization of marijuana was at our doorstep and with legalization comes a responsibility to balance public safety and fairness. And by public safety, it's common sense. Nobody wants a crane operator 50 stories up to be smoking a joint and nor do you want an emergency medicine doctor like myself taking care of a critically ill patient if I were stoned. So that's common sense. But the fairness part of it when it comes to marijuana is that it's now legal in California and many other states and so people have the right to use it in a safe manner. And why should they be fired the next day for smoking a joint the night before? But they could be fired from their job if they get tested the next day because marijuana stays in your system - your blood, your urine, your saliva - for days if not weeks and so there's no way to correlate a positive test with potential impairment. So if you smoked last night or you smoked two weeks ago, it's going to show up virtually the same. Breath is totally different. And so by being able to measure THC - the stuff that gets you stoned - in breath where it only lasts for two to three hours, you can now correlate the presence of THC in breath with what we call the peak impairment window which just means the time that people are most likely to be impaired and that's been set by federal government and other researchers." WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (OCTOBER 1, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PEOPLE SMOKING MARIJUANA AT MARIJUANA CAFE WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES (RECENT) (REUTERS) MARIJUANA LEAF PIN ON LAPEL OF JUSTIN STREKAL, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS (NORML) STREKAL SEATED (SOUNDBITE) (English) JUSTIN STREKAL, POLITICAL DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR THE REFORM OF MARIJUANA LAWS (NORML) SAYING: "My understanding is no company that has claimed that they've cracked the code has put out peer reviewed evidence that shows that there is a correlation between impairment and trace metabolic elements and, if the question that our law enforcement officers seek to answer, if the question that our employers seek to answer, is whether or not an individual is fit to carry out the activity that they're engaging in, be it driving a car or operating a motor vehicle, then the onus is on the state or the employer to be able to detect for impairment. And simply being able to detect trace metabolic elements is an unacceptable response."
- Embargoed: 6th November 2019 02:09
- Keywords: employers TCH detection police marijuana legalization smoking breathalyzer DUI DWI
- Location: NEWARK AND WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, WASHINGTON, DC AND PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES/UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- City: NEWARK AND WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA, WASHINGTON, DC AND PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES/UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- Country: US Minor Outlying Islands
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA002B2BGEH3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: One toke for the road could end up being a total bummer for drivers who smoke pot, with several companies in the United States preparing to market cannabis breathalyzers as legalized marijuana spreads across the country.
Nearly a dozen U.S. states allow recreational marijuana consumption and 33 states permit pot for medical use. But all states prohibit driving under the influence of marijuana.
Oakland, California-based Hound Labs is one of the firms developing a THC breathalyzer with plans to make it commercially available in 2020.
Construction companies could be a big part of its market, said Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs.
"Nobody wants a crane operator 50 stories up to be smoking a joint nor do you want an emergency medicine doctor like myself taking care of a critically ill patient if I were stoned," he told Reuters.
Lynn, a physician and volunteer reserve deputy sheriff, said pregnancy tests inspired him to tackle the challenge of measuring miniscule amounts of THC, the psychoactive component of weed, that show up on users' breath. Pregnancy tests can detect minute quantities of hormone.
On a recent drunk driving patrol, Lynn and another Hound Labs employee accompanied police officers to demonstrate how the breathalyzer works and gain feedback from officers.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh also have developed a marijuana breathalyzer which they said uses nanotechnology, specifically tiny tubes of carbon that work as sensors and are 100,000 times smaller than a human hair.
Separately, the publicly traded firm Cannabix Technologies Inc. from the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby is testing a pair of devices at different price points.
Its THC Breath Analyzer could be cheap enough at a few hundred dollars per unit to potentially allow parents interested in testing their teenager before turning over the keys to the family car, said Cannabix CEO Rav Mlait.
Existing THC screening methods, such as urine tests, can flag employees for potential firing even if they used pot days or weeks in the past. Breathalyzers are likely to only detect a user who consumed cannabis within the last few hours.
But Justin Strekal of marijuana legalization advocacy group NORML said even that could be problematic, because, unlike with alcohol, scientific research has not yet established firm correlations between the amount of marijuana people consume and how impaired they become.
"My understanding is no company that has claimed that they've cracked the code has put out peer reviewed evidence that shows that there is a correlation between impairment and trace metabolic elements," he said.
The U.S. court system would need to consider how to treat evidence from THC breathalyzers, something Lynn says Hound Labs has taken into consideration.
"The information from the breathalyzer certainly could be challenged in court. We would expect that. But the technology that we use is actually very well known. We are taking technology that's essentially similar to what's in a urine pregnancy test, which has been around for many, many years and we've applied that to breath. And so from the perspective of a new technology, we've really modified something very carefully and in a very different way but it's technology that will be well known to the courts," he said.
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