Weed Breathalyzers

As the legalization of cannabis continues to happen throughout the United States, much attention is being paid to tests- both drug tests (nothing new) and breathalyzer tests (new for cannabis). A number of states have done away with drug tests; however, the same cannot be said for the breathalyzer- many states are in support. 

Because cannabis is still surrounded by bias and stigmas, there is a lot of fear toward marijuana consumption and driving. Therefore, wanted to share some stats:

  • The Nevada Department of Public Safety, reports that death from traffic accidents in Nevada have dropped by over 10% in the 1st year that marijuana was legalized for recreational use.
  • The Free Thought Project, reported that a study revealed that states with legal weed/cannabis have significantly lower traffic fatalities. 
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that a study in Virginia found no evidence of increased traffic accidents with those that had marijuana in their system.

There are few companies that are working on, and/or have created weed breathalyzers. These devices are portable, can run tests for both alcohol and marijuana, and the creators of these devices state that they can identify whether someone has consumed (smoked or ingested) cannabis/marijuana within the last 3 hours.

The Potential Problem with Weed Breathalyzers

While many, especially law enforcement, are in favor of these devices, there are many questions:

1.) Do the devices know the differences between cannabis hemp and cannabis marijuana?

2.) Is there any room for wiggling like there is for alcohol; what’s the “legal limit” and have these devices been proven to adhere to those limits?

3.) There are many THC’s- some, like THCA, do not produce a “high/psychoactive effect”, do these devices detect and consider the cannabinoid(s) detected?

Live Science had this to say:

The problem is that recent research clearly shows that the levels of marijuana's active compound, called tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, don't line up in a straightforward way with how impaired people are, according to the paper, published today (Jan. 25) in the journal Trends in Molecular Medicine.”

Trends in Molecular Medicine had this to say:

Additional research is necessary to define the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoid markers in a variety of biological matrices after controlled cannabinoid administration by new routes including e-cigarettes and ‘dabbing’.”

Considerations that Should be Given Before Using a Weed Breathalyzer

Including the considerations listed in the questions above:

  • More research and an understanding of the hundreds of compounds in cannabis/marijuana. 
  • Cannabis/weed treats each of us differently, it can take just 1 nanogram for one person to be impaired and maybe 10 for the next person; more research/insight needed here. 
  • Also, weed consumption and change in behavior needs more research and insight. 
Compliance and safety go hand in hand. While these initiatives are high priority, priority should also be given to the protection of rights of cannabis consumers.  State and federal cannabis regulations must be created to be fair and compliant for consumers and law.  Weed breathalyzers could be great, there is just a little more research that needs to be done before they are legalized/enforced.

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