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Creating The World’s First Cannabis Breathalyzer Takes A Lot Of Work, And Weed

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With recreational cannabis now legal in states such as Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, and also extending to countries like Canada in the near future, even the most conservative of critics are hard pressed to say that the future of the world is cannabis-free. Regardless of whether or not the future for cannabis is recreational legalization, or merely medical, all of the benefits of cannabis legalization is still accompanied by unforeseen challenges. One of the new challenges that faces the growing acceptance of cannabis is largely the challenge of regulating safe and responsible use, such as when individuals drive under the influence of cannabis. To challenge this dilemma, Herb Hill, a professor at Washington State University, has set out to build a weed breathalyzer.

Professor Hill has been a pioneer in chemical detection methods for over four decades, for military applications as well as civilian, from bombs to mold, Hill has seen it all. Now, before he retires, Hill is taking on his last challenge, to sniff out pot.  “It’s an interesting project to end on, and an important one,” Hill stated. The scientists are utilizing differential mobility spectrometry (DMS) technology to create their breathalyzer, which generates two ion fields meant to attract THC ions, and repel others.

To conduct the study, the researchers found 14 student volunteers who wanted to get high for science, and earn a little money at the same time. However this led to problems for the research team, since due to federal laws the research team could not supply the cannabis for the students to smoke, provide on campus space for the study, or explicitly pay the students to smoke the substance. “We had to be very clear that we are paying people for their time,” Hill’s graduate assistant, Jessica Tufariello, stated.

Tufariello came up with the solution to simply pay students to measure their breath before and after toking sessions. Student would simply give Tufariello a call, and she would go to them for a pre-toke control breath, and would wait until the act was finished for the post-smoking THC breath.  To add more control, Tufariello asked all of the participants to smoke the strain “Blue Dream” for the purposes of the study, a widely popular strain on the legal market in Washington and Colorado.

Professor Hill’s study of 14 students led to a positive THC identification in 81 percent of the tested samples. There were a few confounding cases, such as one student who smoked earlier in the morning before his control breath.

Although the invention of a breathalyzer for cannabis would be a step forward towards developing a more regulated cannabis-society, the fact of how much safer these devices will actually make these societies is still unsure. A 2015 Study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that cannabis use did not lead to a higher rate in crashes, however there are still confounding reports on the matter.

Hill admits he is aware that the 5ng level that he is testing for in his studies is not scientifically based, but rather the unscientifically based legal guideline. “I haven’t seen anybody who has determined how that relates to being impaired,” says Hill.

Either way, in states and countries where legal cannabis use is a fact of life, this device may assist law enforcement officials maintain a safe and responsible society.

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For more information, check out the original article here.

Although I’m not sure whether or not I believe that cannabis makes you a worse driver, I understand the need to make a breathalyzer for it. What do you guys think? Share your thoughts in the comments!