Cover Image for Roadside Breathalyzers For Marijuana Could Be Coming

Roadside Breathalyzers For Marijuana Could Be Coming

Sabah Khalaf
2 minute read

A new bill just signed into law will make Oklahoma the first in the nation to extensively test a controversial new technology designed to detect whether those pulled over by police are driving under the influence of marijuana.

More than 30 states have now passed some version of marijuana legalization, but how police departments will enforce existing laws that prohibit “drugged” driving remains unclear.

Under the new law, Oklahoma would set aside $300,000 from the state’s budget to test a new technology being touted by a California company called Hound Labs. The new technology can detect recent marijuana consumption (smoked or eaten) within the previous three hours of someone being pulled over, according to Hound Labs.

The Hound Labs test is not reliable enough to hold up in court as evidence against drugged drivers, so participation will be voluntary.

Without such technology, patrol officers must still rely upon their training and experience to determine whether a person is driving under the influence.

“Right now, we don’t really have a lot of roadside testing options for drug screening,” the director of the Oklahoma Board of Tests for Alcohol and Drug Influence told The Oklahoman.

The state of Oklahoma has until now relied upon a field sobriety test approved in 2017 for detecting the presence of marijuana compounds in saliva. But the method can’t reveal the amounts of an illicit substance in the body or how long ago it was consumed. A follow-up blood test is required in every case.

Critics of the new test say that it doesn’t prove that cannabis is in a person’s system or that it has impaired their driving.

Hound Labs, for its part, is the first to concede that it’s technology does not measure impairment. “We’re measuring THC in breath where it lasts a very short period of time, providing objective data about THC in breath to law enforcement and employers to use in conjunction with other information they have gathered,” the company’s founder told CNN earlier this year.

As more and more states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, new tests like the Hound Labs test will be utilized. It remains to be seen, however, if any such tests are scientifically valid enough to be used as evidence in court.