Nanobeak: A breathalyzer for cannabis driving
A small company in partnership with NASA and the Scripps Translational Science Institute are currently developing a breathalyzer that will have various applications including early lung cancer detection. The company, Nanobeak Inc hopes that their breathalyzer will be able to prevent lung cancer by analyzing a patient’s breath for specific chemicals and volatile organic compounds associated with lung cancer. The company hopes that their device will detect cancer in its early stages, as lung cancer in its first stage is cured in 57% of cases compared to 2.5% in its last stage. It is a product that can save lives as well as give consumers more information about their state of health.
A breathalyzer for cannabis driving is a new concept. Until now, driving while under the influence of cannabis, or other illegal substances has been nearly impossible to detect.
However, Nanobeak is not only applying their breathalyzer to the detection of lung cancer. They are also developing an app that will be used as a marijuana detector for law enforcement in cases of drugged driving. They tote that their device will be non-invasive, an issue with the current system of blood tests used by police to detect marijuana, and that the cost to law enforcement will be much lower than a typical blood test.
This to some may seem like a fair method of testing for marijuana during a traffic stop. However, there are many ethical and practical problems with the breathalyzer method of testing for drugged driving that Nanobeak does not take into account. The first and most obvious is that unlike alcohol, there is no direct way for a police officer to know if a person is high. Unlike alcohol, where the signs are specific and very easy to detect, many consumers are able to hide the fact they’re high very easily (using eye drops, not talking like Cheech and Chong etc.). As long as the person wasn’t smoking in the car (in some states, this isn’t even probable cause), there really isn’t any direct legal way to detect “inebriation” from marijuana off the bat.
Secondly, many medicinal marijuana patients already have a resting THC blood level far above the legal limit due to their daily use. Even if one of these patients has not used recently, it is more than likely that they will blow positive on this test. If initiated, many medicinal marijuana users would not be able to drive a car to work or to other facets of their life. Because of marijuana’s long tenure in the human body after it is consumed, it is not as cut and dry as is alcohol, which usually exits the system within a day.
Lastly, those who are regular or medicinal smokers and are used to marijuana’s effects can handle operating a vehicle better than first time or casual smokers. If a person is driving erratically, surely they should be pulled over for a sobriety test. But Nanobeak is assuming that marijuana has the same effect on the body for a medicinal patient (someone using every day) and someone who does it once in a blue moon. Anyone who does smoke regularly finds that one builds a tolerance to marijuana, needing more of it to experience its effects over time. The current 5 nanogram/milliliter standard in Colorado and Washington has been said to be a very low threshold and arbitrary due to the lack of scientific studies based around drugged driving. The threshold level needs to be supported by science instead of an arbitrary decision made by law enforcement officials.
Nanobeak. A breathalyzer for cannabis driving. DUI’s and cannabis. Marijuana and DUI’s.
This article is not to say that drugged driving isn’t dangerous. It is best said here that everyone supports the safe use of medicinal marijuana and responsible decision making on behalf of the consumer in regards to driving a car. However, in order to make an equitable test to prevent unjust actions, companies like Nanobeak and law enforcement officials must take into account that some use marijuana as a legitimate medicine. Until that day comes, medicinal users will have to be wary in regards to operating a car if these breathalyzers take hold in the future.
What do you think? Should a breathalyzer for cannabis driving be in the hands of police officers?
Do you think cannabis impairs driving? Many long time cannabis users insist that they drive better while under the influence of cannabis.
Marijuana and DUI’s may someday be as common as alcohol and DUI’s? Possible?
Article written by Zach Johnson