Scientists are finalizing a THC breathalyzer for road safety
A new breathalyzer system that detects THC use may be on the market and in the hands of police officers sooner than expected. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have developed a fuel cell sensor that can detect the presence of THC by oxidizing the cells and producing an electric current.
The device, similar to an alcohol breathalyzer, will be handheld and can detect THC on a person’s breath after they have smoked marijuana. Researchers explained that the device is necessary for keeping the roads safer at a time when recreational marijuana legalization is grabbing the nation by storm.
According to recent studies, marijuana legalization has been linked to dramatically increased risks in automotive accidents and has been demonstrated to impair driving abilities.
In 2020, UCLA postdoctoral researcher Evan Darzi discovered that removing a hydrogen molecule from the larger THC molecule allowed it to shift colors detectably. Since these findings, researchers have been working on ways to develop a breathalyzer that works using the same concept.
This new technology may serve drivers with more DUIs, but it can also serve to prevent DUIs. In Pennsylvania, for example, if marijuana is detected in your bloodstream when suspected of driving under the influence, the suspect is charged with the highest tier DUI possible, regardless if the driver was actually under the influence while driving.
As we all know, marijuana remains in the blood for an extended period of time, past the period of intoxication. Furthermore, a medical card does not serve as a get-out jail-free card in PA. Medical marijuana patients still run the risk of being charged with a DUI, even if they have their medical card and were not under the influence while driving.
Being wrongly accused of a DUI can have major impacts on financial stability and employment, and can even lead to imprisonment. A new THC breathalyzer could serve to identify those who are driving while intoxicated from those who are not.