A new marijuana breathalyzer is now on the market.
Biotech company Hound Labs has developed a product that can detect cannabis use.
“What we found in extensive human testing for smokers is that 100% of people are positive about an hour after smoking. And then after that it starts to decline. So maybe 85% will be positive at two hours,” said Mike Lynn, the chairman of the board at Hound Labs.
This is how it works: A breath sample is taken and preserved, and then sent to a lab for analysis. Hound Labs is currently working on a second model that can show results on-scene.
"The Hound Cannabis Breathalyzer is the first and only breath test that's now commercial that can help an employer have a deterrent for cannabis use,” Lynn said. “But at the same time, to allow employees to use legally off hours just like we do with alcohol.”
Lynn said it has taken nearly a decade of science and engineering.
The first product launch is mainly intended for employers, but Hound Labs hopes to have it for use in other industries in the future, too. Think police departments, for example.
“Right now the standards around law enforcement are not defined yet by the government, whether state or federal, so as those standards get defined we will certainly be able to help law enforcement deploy it in a way that is fair to people that are pulled over and also helps meet the requirements that are out there for law enforcement,” Lynn said.
Currently, marijuana is legal for medical use in 38 states and recreational use in 23 states, according to 2023 informationfrom the National Conference of State Legislatures. It is still illegal at the federal level,
So how does this test differ from other cannabis use tests?
“The traditional ways of testing cannabis, we have urine test, hair test, and then blood test,” said Shannon Donnelly, a professor of cannabis in the school of hospitality at MSU Denver. She has been in the cannabis space since 2007, both as an operator and a regulator for the city and county of Denver.
What are your thoughts on a cannabis breathalyzer? Biotech company Hound Labs has developed a product than can detect cannabis use in a shorter window than more traditional tests. Cannabis experts say there could be pros and cons to this new tool.
“When we look at both hair and urine, we’re kind of looking at how long a person has been using cannabis,” she said.
“All of those tests detect cannabis but they can't differentiate somebody who smoked yesterday, a week ago, sometimes a month ago from somebody who just used in the past few minutes let’s say,” Lynn explained.
A breathalyzer can give a more accurate picture of use within the past few hours.
Donnelly said there are potential pros and cons to using breathalyzers like this.
“The pros is that we need something like this as we see more states coming online especially around consumption, but a con is that we need research and we need education of the individuals that are using this,” she said.
“I’m excited that we see things like cannabis going from Schedule I possibly to a Schedule III [drug] which will open the doors for more research, and hopefully really be able to narrow down what does it mean for someone to test positive on a cannabis breathalyzer and where do we go from here,” Donnelly said.
Hound Labs said employers in the oil and gas, hospitality, and tourism industries were some of its first customers.
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