Researchers at WSU develop pot breathalyser

Researchers at WSU develop pot breathalyser

Researchers at WSU are asking volunteers to get stoned, in the name of science.

People from all over the world are interested in volunteering for the study.

Research assistant Nathan Weller says he’s been getting more than 150 phone calls every day.

“Voicemail is full, text messages, so I don’t know if it’s so good being so popular.”

A new marijuana breathalyser is in development. Researchers hope it will someday assist officers in detecting acute drug impairment while on patrol.

Assistant chemistry professor Brian Clowers says the device is at least a year away before it’s ready for use in the real world. Officers use a variety of tools when it comes to measuring alcohol impairment, but no device currently exists for detecting THC.

There’s a high demand for such technology.

The current device being tested is no larger than a loaf of bread. It’s small enough for law enforcement officers to utilize it during patrols. As of now, they are keeping the prototype under wraps but they plan to share more information once further testing is complete.

Since WSU receives federal funding, marijuana is prohibited on campus. Volunteers in the study pick up the pot at a licensed store in town, then consume it in their own homes. A taxi then takes them to the Pullman Regional Hospital where testing can take place legally.

Drivers in Washington can be charged with a DUI if blood tests show levels of THC at or above 5 nanograms.

According to Clowers, a concept of tolerance comes into play. THC can remain in the bloodstream of chronic users long after it’s ingested. It’s one of many grey areas when it comes to cannabis and cars. In some cases, chronic users may not feel impaired, but blood tests may say otherwise.

“We’re not addressing that specifically in this study but we’re trying to develop a tool to help other researchers do that,” Clowers said.

Clowers said it’s hard to predict just how much the device would cost, but he estimated a few thousand dollars. Developers are hopeful that a smaller, more affordable model could someday be available to schools and employers.