(CNN) – Police have alcohol breathalyzers to test suspected drunk drivers. What if someone is suspected of driving stoned?
Francis has spent the last year and a half looking for pot, looking for it someplace no one has ever found it before. In a user’s breath.
Matt Francis, Chemist, Univ. of California – Berkeley said, “We had to develop some new chemistry that can actually be done. It was not obvious when we started that we could tag this.”
Meanwhile, it can be obvious to a street cop when somebody’s driving stoned.
Sgt. Davis Dowty, California Highway Patrol mentioned, “I think for most of our officers, impaired is impaired. They can see that based on their training and experience.”
According to Sgt. David Dowty with the union that represents highway patrolmen, being able to make an arrest, and being able to get a conviction are two different things.
Sgt. Dowty, “Because they don’t have a tool, like with alcohol, it’s very difficult for them to say ‘okay. All these things that you saw, that’s wonderful and you may have been right, officer. But we need to convince a jury.'”
That would be hound labs, buzzing in with an answer. It’s a breath test that can detect both alcohol, and pot when the person taking it exhales and that’s important because there are already plenty of ways to tell if someone uses marijuana. To tell if they smoked pot recently, if they are stoned, breath is much better than urine or blood.
Francis, “THC resides, its metabolites reside in those media for a long time– sometimes days, sometimes even a month. So you cannot use those methods very well to determine if someone has recently ingested marijuana or smoked marijuana. You can’t tell how long it’s been.”
While Dr. Francis has worked on the problem for a year and a half, Mike Lynn, the CEO of hound labs and the guy demonstrating the breathalyzer for us, has been working on this for much longer.
Mike Lynn, Hound Labs CEO said, “We have tremendous interest from not only law enforcement, employers, who are struggling with this problem, but also the cannabis industry who knows you can’t be driving stoned. Everybody really accepts that.”
Lynn argues the breathalyzer will be the best defense for pot users who aren’t stoned at the time they are pulled over.
Hound labs says the breathalyzer could become available sometime next year. Its price tag is expected to be under one-thousand dollars.