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Hounds Labs To Launch The First Breathalyzer That Can Detect Marijuana And Alcohol

A California-based startup is gearing up to launch the world’s first-ever breathalyzer capable of detecting both marijuana and alcohol in the field – but skeptics say the tool has some serious flaws.

According to Mashable, the company, Hound Labs, said it will release its handheld breathalyzer commercially this fall with a reported price tag of $5,000.

Its device will be marketed mainly toward law enforcement and construction companies who wish to test citizens and employees for substances in the field and workplace

Its release will mark a particularly momentous step for law enforcement regarding their efforts to quickly quantify the impairment of motorists who they suspect of driving while high — even in states like California where marijuana is legal for recreational use, laws prohibit smokers from operating a vehicle.

Although Hound Labs will be first-to-market with its marijuana breathalyzer, detractors have been quick to point out some apparent flaws in the device’s functionality — drawbacks that the device shares with all of its THC-detecting predecessors.

Among the perceived downfalls of Hound Lab’s tool is, counter intuitively, its sensitivity.


While the device can detect small traces THC on someone’s breath — up to a trillionth of a gram per liter — this also means that very small amounts of marijuana could read like very large amounts.

This sensitivity is potentially important for the same reasons as when measuring one’s blood-alcohol content — that is to say, establishing the difference between half of a beer and six mixed drinks.

Additionally, the science behind how THC affects the body and impairment is difficult to prove and has been understudied due to strict legal guidelines surrounding marijuana.

As Marijuana information database, Leafly, put it, ‘One of the main problems: a breathalyzer cannot actually show a correlation between THC and intoxication.’

Skeptics have also cast some doubt on the science behind Hound Labs breathalyzer.

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According to the company, the product was tested jointly in a study with the University of California, San Francisco but the actual report has not been released or peer reviewed.

Hound Labs said it tested 20 people who were asked to ingest their own marijuana in any amount.

As reported by Mashable, Hound Labs has yet to allow journalists or anyone else to test their product, stating that it will be made available once the product is being sold.

Currently law enforcement officials are offered very few options to test for marijuana in the field and the methods that are in use have been deployed to some controversial results.

According to a Vice report in February, a Canadian woman with multiple sclerosis had her car impounded for a week after being pulled over and forced to take a saliva test.

The woman was found not to be impaired by a field sobriety test despite the results coming back positive for THC, yet her license and vehicle were temporarily revoked.

As Hound Labs — which has been developing its device since 2015 — works to get its product to market, other competitors like Cannabix have been keeping stride.

The company recently reported some success in getting its machine to discern between different compounds in subject’s breath.

WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO DEVELOP SOBRIETY TESTS FOR MARIJUANA?

Determining when someone is too high to drive is a problem that has evaded the chemists, psychiatrists, law enforcement agents and public policy makers.

Scientists explained to Daily Mail Online why the most scientific tests may not be the best way to determine how high is too high and the unique chemistry that makes marijuana a drug-screening enigma.

Some are unique to the drug, but one is true of just about any substance: tolerance.

Depending on how often and in what doses someone uses any substance, the amount it takes to for the drink or drug to have an effect varies drastically.

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So, people with medical marijuana prescriptions, for example, who might smoke weed every day, seem totally unaffected and breezily pass a field sobriety test – which involves tests for coordination and balance, like walking the line, as well as some for memory and attention – even though they’ve recently ingested lots of the drug.

Beyond that, marijuana moves through the body in a very different way from alcohol.

Marijuana – more specifically, its psychoactive component – leaves the blood very quickly, but it lingers in the fat and brain, meaning its cognitive effects do, too.

According to Dr Richard Clark, director of the division of medical toxicology at the University of California, San Diego, marijuana may even move from these tissues back into the blood days later in ‘chronic’ smokers.

And just to add an extra level of difficulty, the THC in increasingly popular edibles gets converted quickly to anther compound in the stomach, so a THC test might not even detect it, even when a high was in full effect.

Blood and urine tests are available, but sometimes a long time passes between when someone is pulled over and when the test can be administered.

There are two recently developed breathalyzers for THC – one from Hound Labs and another from Cannabix – and several other tests in development, but these face the same challenges of disparity between blood level and actual high.

‘Field sobriety testing introduces subjectivity into something you’d really like to be subjective,’ says Dr Hall.

For now, however, no method is perfect.

‘So what does it all mean,’ Hall said, ‘except it’s better to drive completely sober.’

Source: Dailymail

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