As marijuana legalization continues to sweep across the nation, state governments are working hard to balance the introduction of the plant on the market with public health and safety. The main concern for many is the impact marijuana legalization will have on the motorway safety. Studies indicate that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than drunk driving, but there is still an increased risk involved.
The Race to Develop the Marijuana Breathalyzer
The New York Health Department, who have been examining whether or not to legalize the plant, commented about the research on driving under the influence of THC stating that “while existing information suggests a lower impact than might have been expected, legalization of adult use of marijuana raises valid concerns about traffic safety.”
For this reason, tech companies have been fighting hard to be at the head of the game when it comes to finding a solution to this very valid concern. Though their have been a few previous efforts, the latest prototype developed by Hound Labs may be the model that actually cracks the code. They have created a device that can tell whether or not a person has consumed marijuana within the last few hours and in what quantity. This is gauged by detecting THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, on the breath. According to the company, the THC detecting device is up to a billion times more sensitive than the alcohol breathalyzers used today.
“Clinical trials with the Hound Labs device underscored the importance of incredibly sensitive tools to measure THC in breath,” said Dr. Y. Ruben Yo at a conference about Hound Labs’s new device. “What was surprising was that the portable Hound Labs device initially had lower levels of detection than what we normally see with our mass spectrometer, so we had to develop new calibration methods to ensure our equipment measured the same low levels as the Hound breathalyzer.”
Integrating the Breathalyzer Into Law
The device will begin use in California in the fall and will no doubt affect the way ‘driving under the influence’ offenses are calculated in other states as well. In particular, it’s release is having a big influence in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been concerned about the effects of legalization on public health. For this reason, he created a task force in the Health Department to evaluate the effects of legalization on public health. Now they have returned recommending that the state legalize the plant for recreational use.
The Benefits of Legalization
They have given dozens of reasons for legalizing the plant, including stopping the disproportionate arrest of minorities for possession. While the use of marijuana is the same across the races, hispanic and black people are disproportionately arrested for possession of the plant. This greatly impacts their families, their communities and the ability to get work, housing and education in the future. States with legal marijuana also have a greatly decreased opioid problem. The state tax revenue is of course another reason for legalization, given how that money can be put back into the community for health and education.
The biggest concern for New York was legalization’s effect on traffic incidents. Now with the introduction of the new Hound Labs device, the Health Department is suggesting a move forward towards discussing legalization when lawmakers return in January.