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The Marijuana Breathalyzer: Emerging Technology Could Impact Marijuana DUIs

In the last few years, medical and recreational marijuana legalization has continued to expand across the country. As more states permit the use of marijuana in one form or another, police departments, public health officials, and attorneys on both sides of the law have begun to take a significant interest in the effects of marijuana when its users find themselves behind the wheel and on the road.

It is known that marijuana impairs users’ judgement and reaction times, similar to alcohol, but what isn’t similar to alcohol is the way in which this impairment is measured. In fact, up until now, there have been few (if any) precise roadside apparatuses to detect impairment from marijuana. In most cases, the police must trust field sobriety tests or their own observations when they are deciding whether or not a person, they’ve pulled over is under the influence of weed. With that said, there is always an innovative person somewhere who is looking for the chance to cash in on opportunities when there are gaps in currently available technologies, and now there is a company that’s put marijuana breathalyzers on the map.

Hound Labs’ Introduction of a Marijuana Breathalyzer

Hound Labs, an Oakland, California-based company, has invented a device that looks like breathalyzers used to detect alcohol, but instead, it is focused on the detection of marijuana use. If you get pulled over by a police officer who has access to one of Hound Labs’ devices, you will be asked to blow into it for 30 seconds. At that point, device is designed to detect if there is any THC on your breath.

This device is said to be able to accurately detect whether you have smoked marijuana in the last two hours—a window many consider to be the peak impairment timeframe. This device also doubles as an alcohol breathalyzer, giving police an easy-to-use roadside tool for either (or both) intoxicant. The company’s CEO Mike Lynn indicated to NPR that the device was invited as a way to provide a balance of fairness and safety to those who might be affected by DUI laws as they pertain to marijuana usage.

RELATED: How to Fight a Marijuana DUI in California

The marijuana breathalyzer looks a lot like the alcohol breathalyzer, with a plastic box that houses a disposable cartridge. The cartridge fits inside the device, which is the size of a large cell phone. On one end, a small plastic tube sticks out of the device, which is what drivers who are pulled over will be asked to blow into if they are suspected of drugged driving. It takes 30 seconds of an exhale for the device to register users’ THC levels on the breath. According to the device’s inventor, the machine will not show marijuana usage on a person’s breath if they have not consumed it in the last few hours.

What Hound Labs’ Marijuana Breathalyzer Does Not Do

While Hound Labs’ machine has been designed to detect the mere presence of THC on the breath, it does not have the ability to calculate the actual amount of THC that has been consumed. Although it was in development for six years before making a public appearance, this device still has its deficits.

How Hound Labs’ Marijuana Breathalyzer Could Change Things for Marijuana DUI Charges

Currently, you can only be tested for marijuana consumption through blood, saliva, or urine. However, with these methods, you cannot really tell whether a person has smoked a half hour ago or eight days ago. THC dissolves in fat, so it can stay in your body for up to a month after use.

Even with this new tool, issues persist. For example, there is still no agreement on what amount or level of THC in breath, blood, or saliva constitutes functional impairment. Unlike alcohol, which consistently has a limit of 0.08% across the United States, impairment levels where THC is concerned are still a very debated topic. To what extent and how long marijuana affects driving response, judgement, and skill is not yet fully known.

Are Hounds Labs’ Marijuana Breathalyzers Being Used by Police Departments?

At this time, a few police departments have tested these devices, such as Alameda County, California. Prior to the invention of the Hounds Breathalyzer, blood, saliva, and urine test results often took days to come back from labs. Now, law enforcement hopes to use this roadside tool when they suspect drivers are high behind the wheel.

Police are trying to determine who might be impaired when they are driving. They are not in the business of arresting drivers who are not impaired. That is why police departments are looking for objective data that will help them determine what levels of THC are actually showcasing impaired driving when someone partakes in marijuana consumption.

In Conclusion

Companies like Hounds Labs are looking for opportunities to bridge the gap when it comes to marijuana consumption and DUI laws. This will not be the last device designed to detect weed usage, which is why it is important that people who partake in the substance understand the rules and are careful not to drive when they have smoked marijuana or taken edibles.

Bottom line: if you are high and need to get somewhere, just take a Lyft or an Uber. If you do end up being arrested and charged with a marijuana DUI, it is best to lawyer up right away. Need a little direction? Our team at Artz & Sturm Law Group has extensive experience in all things California-DUI-related, including alcohol and marijuana. You can reach out to us at 310-820-1315 for fastest results, or fill out our online form, and someone will be with you as soon as possible.

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