Although scientists have been trying for years to create a legitimate test for gauging marijuana impairment, they have failed miserably at designing a device that is effective in the field.
However, the situation is possibly about to change.
A recent report from Business Insider indicates that Silicon Valley’s Benchmark Capital, the venture capital firm that got in on the ground floor on Uber, Snap, and Dropbox, contributed more than $8 million to Oakland-based startup Hound Labs to get its new marijuana Breathalyzer in the hands of law enforcement and drug testing companies.
Hound Labs was covered extensively by the media in 2014, when it claimed to have engineered a first ever breath test that police would be able to use to “determine if an individual is impaired from recent marijuana use.” The company said the device would solve the nation’s stoned driving problem by giving law enforcement the same kind of technology they are currently using to test for alcohol impairment.
Dr. Michael Lynn, CEO and cofounder of Hound Labs, still feels confident that his company’s Breathalyzer will be a game changer.
"With alcohol, it doesn't matter what your car looks like or ... whether you're a man or a woman. At the end of the day, everybody pretty much knows if you're above a .08 [blood-alcohol level] you're going to be arrested," Lynn told Business Insider. "We want to do the same thing for THC and take the subjectivity out of it, make sure that everyone is treated fairly."
Cannabis advocates have long since argued that breath detection does not accurately gauge marijuana impairment – it only determines whether a person has THC in their system.
But Hound Labs says it has found the sweet spot.
“Our ability to measure THC in breath really should shift the national dialogue from one about simply detecting if THC is in someone’s body to a conversation where standards can be developed that reflect actual impairment,” the company said it a 2014 press release.
The fact that a venture capital firm has invested $8.1 million to bring Hound Lab’s marijuana Breathalyzer to market is enough to suggest that the company really has found the solution to the stoned driving conundrum. If this is true, it could benefit the marijuana legalization movement greatly, by providing legislative forces concerned with highway safety issues as a result of legalization with the same weapon the law currently uses to police drunk driving.
With recreational marijuana now legal in eight states and the District of Columbia, it is more crucial than ever to put an accurate testing device in the hands of law enforcement in those areas.