Marijuana Breathalyzer Devices May Offer Local Law Enforcement a New Tool for Combating DUI’s

| October 22, 2019

VENANGO CO., Pa. (EYT) – Area law enforcement agencies may soon have a new tool available to combat the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana.

(PHOTO: California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jaimi Kenyon blows into a breathalyzer held by Sacramento Police Corporal Luke Moseley during a demonstration of devices used to test drivers suspected of impaired driving Wednesday, May 10, 2017, AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.)

One of the major challenges with the issue of marijuana intoxication is detecting drivers who are actively under the influence, as blood tests can show THC in the bloodstream weeks after it has been ingested.

It is a problem researchers have been working on for quite some time, and it appears there may finally be a solution.

Hound Labs in California began field testing of their new marijuana breathalyzer, with the help of law enforcement, over Labor Day weekend this year. It is said to be one billion times more sensitive than an alcohol breathalyzer system.

Hound Labs isn’t alone, either. SannTek, a Canadian Company, is also working on field testing their 315 Breathalyzer system – which the company claim detects cannabis in breath with great accuracy, reliability, and with a quick response time.

Research done by Dr. Alex Star of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Ervin Sejdic of the Swanson School of Engineering resulted in the development of a breathalyzer device that is reported to be able to measure the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a user’s breath. The researchers are continuing to test the prototype but hope it will soon move to manufacturing and be available for use.

“If it works the way they say it will, I’d be interested, but a lot of times, once you get a device in the field, you find it’s not as beneficial or accurate as what the original claims say and what the companies hope,” Chief Kevin Anundson of the Franklin Police Department told exploreVenango.com.

“I’ll reserve judgement until they’ve been out and in use and tested in the field for a while and we actually see some results.”

Chief Bob Wenner of the Sugarcreek Borough Police Department added that “it would be another tool in our toolbox of things, though it wouldn’t be the final determination.

“It’s still too early for me to even assume the relevance of the device, though. I can only base it on what other PBT devices did before it.”

Chief William Peck of the Clarion Borough Police Department echoed that it would be another helpful tool for authorities.

“I’m all about it, if they are accurate and can get approved,” he said.

“It would be another helpful tool in our toolbox, but with any type of device like that, there would be a process where it would have to be approved for use in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If it doesn’t get approved, it’s going to be useless to us.”

Chief Jacob Orr, of the Knox Borough Police Department, added that he would like to see thorough testing done on the product before his department considers purchasing one.

“I’d want to see some very extensive testing done to make sure we’re getting the same kind of results we’re getting through the blood tests,” Chief Orr explained.

“I wouldn’t want to go out and buy one right away. After the testing is complete, if it seems to be working well, we might look into it, but I would want to see it tested for a while.”

The announcements of these new devices came at a pivotal time, as Senators Daylin Leach and Sharif Street introduced SB350, a new comprehensive adult marijuana use reform bill, just last week, offering yet another possibility for legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

With the ongoing changes in laws, both in Pennsylvania and across the nation, marijuana use is on the rise, and likewise, marijuana DUI’s are rising, as well.

According to the CDC, as of 2017, 13% of nighttime, weekend drivers have marijuana in their system, up from 9% in 2007, and after alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often linked to drugged driving.

While multiple studies have shown that marijuana negatively affects a number of skills needed for safe driving, and some have shown a link between marijuana use and car crashes, it remains unclear whether marijuana use directly increases the risk of car crashes. This is due, in part, to the current lack of an accurate roadside test for marijuana levels in the body, which may change with the possible release of this new technology.


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