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Researchers Develop A Breathalyzer For Pot

The breath test will detect THC, rather than blood alcohol content.

Researchers Develop A Breathalyzer For Pot
[Photo: Flickr user KOMUnews]

Today in weed: Law enforcement officers may soon be able to detect if you’re driving while high.

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Researchers at Washington State University are currently developing a test that will measure marijuana impairment through a breath sample, much like how breathalyzers determine blood alcohol levels. The only option currently available is a blood test, which doesn’t offer the type of immediacy needed if officers suspect that a driver is under the hazy influence of pot.

The handheld device tests for THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, by harnessing the same technology used by airport security to detect drugs and explosives. (Think five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood instead of 0.08 BAC.) For now, however, the breath test likely won’t give exact numbers and will only indicate the presence of active THC.

A marijuana breathalyzer couldn’t come at a better time, with pot now legalized in four states and in D.C. Since the state of Washington legalized the drug in 2012, it saw the number of pot-addled drivers jump from 18.6% that year to 25% in 2013.

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is an assistant editor for Fast Company Digital. Her writing has previously been featured in Gizmodo and Popular Science magazine.

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