The recently elected Liberal government’s promise to legalize cannabis has caused many to hold their breath, and one company to develop ways to keep track of it.
Vancouver based Cannabix Technologies have created a marijuana breathalyzer that it hopes will aid law enforcement in jurisdictions where cannabis is both legalized and regulated for drivers.
Currently, there are no plans or timelines from the Liberals on how cannabis will be regulated, but other areas offer insight into possible outcomes.
Washington State, where cannabis was legalized in 2012, limits THC levels in drivers to less than 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood, but state and local law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the Driving-Under-the-Influence limits don’t have many tools to monitor those levels.
Washington State patrol chief John Batiste admitted that, since cannabis was legalized in his state, police have seen an increase in people driving under the influence, but how to monitor the levels are a “work in progress.”
“What we’re trying to do is find a way how we can do roadside detections as we do with alcohol,” said Batiste. “We’re addressing that in a variety of ways in terms of information sharing and teaching our troopers, along with other officers in the state of Washington, how to better detect and deal with that situation.”
Predicting that Canada will create similar restrictions to American states, Cannabix posted a press release to their site that said “development of a marijuana breathalyzer is even more urgently needed to enforce marijuana impaired driving and road safety.”
“It’s been scientifically proven that the lungs eliminate THC within a two-hour period,” said Cannabix president Kal Malhi, describing the device. “We capture the breath within the lungs within that two hour period, so it’s recent use and it captures that in the breath.”
The alpha prototype of their marijuana breathalyzer doesn’t quantify the amount of THC in the driver’s system.
The impact of cannabis on driving is controversial and more studies will be completed as legalization takes place.
A 2015 US research study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse offered insight into the effects of marijuana on driving performance compared to alcohol.
Researchers focused on three parameters of driving ability: weaving within the lane, the number of times the car left the lane, and the speed of the weaving. Although alcohol consumption made an impact on an increase of drivers leaving their lane and the speed of weaving, cannabis did not. Cannabis did show an increase in weaving for drivers with a blood concentration of 13.1 ug/L THC, more than twice the legal limit for drivers in Washington.
In 2002, a review of studies involving 7,934 drivers reported, “Crash culpability studies have failed to demonstrate that drivers with cannabinoids in the blood are significantly more likely than drug-free drivers to be culpable in road crashes.”