One toke over the line: Race on to develop "pot breathalyzer"

Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:13pm EDT
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By Natalie Grover

July 13 (Reuters) - As cannabis bans are relaxed in more U.S. states, the race is on to develop an instant roadside breathalyzer for police to test drivers who may be taking the "high" road.

Vancouver-based Cannabix Technologies Inc, founded by a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, expects to be first out of the gate with a "pot breathalyzer" - a handheld device similar to those used to detect alcohol.

Cannabix won't give an estimate of when its product might go on sale, but has a prototype undergoing in-house testing.

Other hopefuls, such as Colorado-based Lifeloc Technologies Inc and a chemistry professor-PhD student duo at Washington State University, are still busy in the lab.

The devices aim to accurately detect the presence of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, but can't provide enough evidence of impairment by themselves.

"I think the first breathalyzer on the market will be a simple 'yes' or 'no' for the presence of THC at the time of the test, and in that sense it won't provide a quantitative evidential measure," said Barry Knott, the chief executive of Lifeloc, which already makes alcohol breathalyzers.

The size of the potential market is unclear, owing to widely varying estimates of cannabis use, and unreliable data on those driving under its influence.

But developers say they will be able to sell pot devices for a lot more than the ubiquitous alcohol breathalyzers.   Continued...