Although many companies have tried and failed throughout the years to create a legitimate roadside detection method for gauging marijuana impairment, a recent multi-million dollar investment in Breathalyzer technology could be an indication that an effective test is on the horizon.
According to a report from Business Insider, Silicon Valley’s Benchmark Capital, the venture capital firm that took early chances on Uber, Snap and Dropbox, has thrown more than $8 million at Oakland-based startup Hound Labs to get its new marijuana Breathalyzer off the ground.
Hound Labs made headlines back in 2014 when the company revealed that it had successfully produced the first-ever marijuana Breathalyzer that police would be able to use to “determine if an individual is impaired from recent marijuana use.”
The company attributed its creation to the scientific minds at the University of California in Berkeley, saying the device would solve the stoned driving problem in the United States by giving law enforcement the same roadside testing technology for pot as they presently have for alcohol.
As it stands, none of the testing methods that police are using out in the field to bust people for driving under the influence of marijuana are actually effective in gauging impairment. At best, these methods can determine whether a person has smoked weed at some point within the last 30 days, but in no way can they determine whether a motorist is high behind the wheel.
This lack of an effective testing method has put many law-biding citizens at risk of being arrested for a DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs).
In most legal states, police are using saliva and blood analysis to police stoned driving. But because of the way marijuana metabolizes in the body, these methods do not produce accurate results.
Dr. Michael Lynn, CEO and co-founder of Hound Labs, says he feel confident that his company’s Breathalyzer will remedy the problem.
“With alcohol, it doesn’t matter what your car looks like or… whether you’re a man or a woman. At the end of the day, everybody pretty much knows if you’re above a .08 [blood-alcohol level] you’re going to be arrested,” Lynn told Business Insider. “We want to do the same thing for THC and take the subjectivity out of it, make sure that everyone is treated fairly.”
Researchers have been running the new marijuana Breathalyzer through clinical trials for the past month.
There is speculation that the success of these trials is what prompted Benchmark Capital to sink its teeth into the opportunity. After all, the firm would never persuade a group of investors to pour money into the device if it was not almost guaranteed to become the solution to the nation’s stoned driving conundrum.
Cannabis advocates have long since argued that using breath detection to determine marijuana impairment should be avoided because it does not determine whether an individual is under the influence of drugs.
But Hound Labs says, “Our ability to measure THC in breath really should shift the national dialogue from one about simply detecting if THC is in someone’s body to a conversation where standards can be developed that reflect actual impairment.”
For now, all that is really known is the marijuana Breathalyzer is going to be made available to law enforcement and drug testing companies for around $600 to $1,000 each, according to the report.
But Lynn says part of the $8.1 million the company received in its first round of funding will be used to bring the product to market.