Around the globe, cannabis is becoming more accepted. Marijuana has become increasingly accepted in society over the past two decades. On the federal level, regulations have been relaxed on marijuana used for research purposes. Four states have legalized it already, with some caveats. In other states, drug sentencing is generally becoming more lenient. Most recently, Minnesota passed recent legislation that reduces jail time and sentencing for small drug offenses.
In just a few months, five states will vote on marijuana legalization. This could have an enormous impact on legislation around the country.
One concern among critics is whether or not this relaxed attitude to cannabis will lead to negative outcomes such as more incidences of drugged driving. With drunk driving, a simple blood alcohol content reading can reveal if a driver is too intoxicated to drive. Measuring tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is not so simple, since it is fat soluble and can stay in your body for months.
As marijuana gains ground as a more socially acceptable drug, researchers and engineers are creating technology to help us understand our usage of it, and to enforce responsible behavior. Here are several examples of new tech designed to check how high someone might be.
Though this app has no law enforcement applications, My Canary is a useful tool for those who use cannabis. It promotes responsible behavior by letting users know when they are too inebriated to drive. My Canary is billed as a “personal mental and physical performance tracker”, but what does that entail?
It is actually fairly simple: the app presents the user with four short tests which can be completed in a few minutes. These tests are intended to measure reaction time, balance, time perception, and memory. After regularly doing these tests, the app begins to learn what your average performance is. If your results ever vary too greatly from your average result, My Canary informs you that you may be inebriated.
Marijuana & Alcohol Breathalyzer
A marijuana and alcohol breathalyzer, developed by the University of California for Hound Labs Inc., kills two birds with one stone; it is a breathalyzer that detects both alcohol and THC. While a breathalyzer like this is not a new concept, this will reportedly be the first to check for not only the presence of THC, but also the exact concentration of it. This is no mean feat. A chemistry professor at the University named Matt Francis stated that THC is “one million times more dilute than alcohol”.
The breathalyzer underwent clinical trials several months ago, and could be released before the end of this year. The device was created with the intent of marketing it to law enforcement agencies, though a less costly consumer version will also likely be released.
Marijuana Spit Scanner
An alternate way for police officers to check if drivers are intoxicated is through a spit test. Dr. Shan X. Wang of Stanford University created a device that can determine the level of THC in a sample of saliva. The test uses nanoparticles that adhere to THC, allowing the device to measure exactly how many nanograms are present. A device with such precise readings could help legislators settle on a legal limit for “marijuana intoxication”.
Dr. Wang’s creation is still only a proof of concept, but he estimates that a finished device will be ready in approximately one year. It is an ambitious project. The sensor is even planned to be equipped with bluetooth, so that the officer who administers the test could inform others about the test results without leaving the driver or vehicle.
These are only a few examples of what people are doing to encourage responsible behavior. As marijuana legalization becomes a reality, such tools might become a necessity. As tech innovators continue to find new solutions, discourse surrounding marijuana acceptance will change.