What’s Holding Up THC Breathalyzers?


Bethan Jenkins

April 25th, 2018

Policy


Driving under the influence of something that impairs reactions is a serious offence. While there are alcohol breathalyzers to detect when a motorist has been knocking back the booze before taking to the open roads, what about drivers who use cannabis prior to getting behind the wheel? Well, it might have taken a while, but THC breathalyzers are officially here.

Don’t get too excited just yet, however. These devices are still being developed and since they are in the infantile stages, there’s a long way to go until law enforcement and the judicial system can accurately measure and enforce cannabis intoxication.

What is a THC Breathalyzer?

A THC breathalyzer is designed to detect the levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a person’s blood. These unique devices could potentially transform the way in which cannabis intoxication is enforced in the future.

In order to effectively measure blood levels based on a person’s breath, it is essential to understand what the vapor pressure is. The way in which a compound reacts when transitioning from a liquid to a gas is known as its vapor pressure. This is precisely what happens inside the lungs when a molecule leaves the blood to be exhaled in a person’s breath.

Unlike traditional breathalyzers that detect the blood alcohol content (BAC), a cannabis breathalyzer detects the psychoactive THC compound. These incredibly useful tools can function with an impressive time range. Some THC breathalyzers will reveal THC ingestion within half an hour, whereas others may take up to two hours to show a precise vapor reading.

Who Needs THC Breathalyzers?

The police department can benefit from THC breathalyzers, since these tools can help them to punish people who commit cannabis DUIs. Governments and law enforcement can also benefit from impairment-testing mechanisms, with the governor of Vermont being one of the first to express his desire for the invention of a reliable THC breathalyzer.

How Do THC Breathalyzers Work?

A specific type of chemistry is used to determine how much THC is contained in a person’s body when the molecule is exhaled in their breath. Think about it like this – if you are able to figure out the amount of pressure produced by ethanol vapor, you can successfully calculate the amount of ethanol that remains in a bottle based on the properties of the gases.

This logic is exactly the same for the THC that leaves the human body. THC-testing devices work by measuring the vapor pressure of the cannabis compound. Since THC is such a complex molecule, scientists have faced many hurdles in developing cannabis breathalyzers.

Are there any common problems associated with THC breath testing technologies?

The main issue with THC breathalyzers is that the majority of devices in development simply measure the amount of THC, rather than a person’s behavior when under the influence. It is tricky to understand whether or not a person is incapable of operating a motor vehicle in this way.

Scientists are still uncertain on what amount of THC is too much to drive. However, certain states (such as Colorado) deem five nanograms of THC to be too much. The Associate Professor of Laboratory Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, Kara Lynch, says there will be ongoing studies to analogize impaired breath levels and confirm a standard.

What is the typical timeline for product development?

Research and development into THC breathalyzers has been taking place for years, but thankfully, we’re getting somewhere. Recently, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published the results of a study on the fundamental physical properties of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in Forensic Chemistry.

Their results showed how the vapor pressure of THC was successfully measured – a breakthrough for scientists, who have struggled to accomplish this task in the past due to THC’s complexity and size. The timeline for THC breathalyzer development will now be a lot shorter than it has been in the past.

Why is Cannabix Technologies a leading name in THC breathalyzer development?

Based in Vancouver, B.C., Cannabix Technologies Inc. is a technology company responsible for developing the Cannabix Marijuana Breathalyzer. Similar to the roadside devices used to detect alcohol on the breath of drunk drivers, the Cannabix Marijuana Breathalyzer exposes THC in breath.

Cannabix is capitalizing on a time when cannabis is becoming legal in many places around the world, by developing quality breath testing technologies that detect the cannabis plant’s psychoactive component – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The recent use of cannabis can be identified using Cannabix’s tool, which identifies the level of THC molecules.

Portable and hard wearing, the THC-detecting devices would produce results within a two-hour time period. When you compare this to the lengthy process of sending urine or saliva samples to a laboratory for testing, the Cannabix Marijuana Breathalyzer is a much more convenient alternative, not to mention less invasive.

Bethan Jenkins

About Bethan Jenkins

Bethan is a full-time wanderluster, traveler, and digital nomad with 7 years of experience in the freelance writing world. She has mastered the art of beating jet lag and using hammocks as an office for content curation.


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