Cannabix: Developing a Solution for Outdated Marijuana Testing
As we all know, the evolving legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in the United States and Canada is taking us into uncharted territory. As more laws allow the use of this drug, it is well-worth considering how this will impact the safety of drivers, including whether our current methods of testing for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound largely responsible for the high that marijuana users experience) are really as fair and relevant as we need them to be. This is no small issue, as studies are revealing that drug-impaired driving is growing in both countries.
Here, then, is the question: when a law enforcement officer at the scene of a crash administers a THC blood-test to see if a driver is impaired, will that test provide an accurate picture of the driver’s impairment? The answer – that we are, in fact, relying on an outdated form of testing that is not always accurate – should concern anyone who cares about keeping drivers safe. It concerns the team at Cannabix Technologies Inc. (CSE: BLO, OTC Pink: BLOZF), a Canadian company that is developing marijuana breathalyzer technology, and they believe their innovations will help law enforcement officers detect THC-impairment of drivers, ultimately making it easier to prosecute offenders.
The Dangers All Drivers on the Road Face
As more legislation is passed that allows the use of medical and recreational cannabis in North America, the instances of drug-impaired driving increase as well. The studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) both found that when recreational marijuana use and retail sales were legalized in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, those states saw a spike in automobile crashes. Another study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that after reviewing ten years of data about the potential impact of the usage of marijuana on the ability to drive safely, the results suggest that “the legalization of recreational marijuana use may increase the rate of THC-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes.”
Why Driving While Impaired by the Usage of Cannabis Is Serious
While many people believe that using marijuana has no serious effects on the body, the reality is quite different. Drivers who use the drug and then get behind the wheel can face impairment that puts their lives and those of other drivers at risk. In experimental settings, it has been established that marijuana intoxication results in altered perception and reaction time, short-term memory malfunction, and diminished attention and motor skills.
In driving simulator tasks and on open and closed driving courses, marijuana has also been shown to impair performance for up to approximately three hours. Users display decreased car handling performance, increased reaction times, impair time and distance estimation, an inability to maintain headway, lateral travel, subjective sleepiness, motor in-coordination, and impaired sustained vigilance.
Much like drunk drivers, marijuana-impaired drivers often attempt to compensate by driving more slowly and increasing their following distance, all of which can cause traffic delays and crashes. While a study published in Oxford Academic found “significant differences between occasional and frequent cannabis smokers in psychomotor, subjective, and physiological effects following cannabis smoking,” it still established that impairment plays a key role in a driver’s ability to react to events on the road or accurately control a car.
Why a New Way to Test Drivers for THC-Impairment Is Needed
When there is a car crash, drug recognition experts (DREs) often help to determine marijuana impairment. After a series of field sobriety tests, an officer may request a saliva, blood or urine sample for analysis. Despite the complex evaluation process, the opinion of a DRE is subjective and not conclusive in determining if an accused was driving a vehicle while impaired by the presence of a drug.
When a driver’s blood sample is collected, the collection almost always occurs hours after ingestion has ceased. Often, time passes between the cessation of smoking and the beginning of driving, and more time passes between the beginning of driving and the encounter with law enforcement officials. Yet more time passes between the beginning of this encounter and the point in time when blood is drawn (often after a search warrant is obtained for driving under the influence of drugs or after the driver has been transported to a hospital post-crash). Thus, the likely THC level detectable in such a blood sample will be relatively low.
Current forms of testing for marijuana use (i.e., blood or hair) can identify if someone used THC only minutes ago all the way to days later. Contrast this with breath, a better indicator of impairment because THC is present in breath for a relatively short period of time (usually between 1-3 hours); it is excreted at detectable levels in other body fluids for many hours, days, or even weeks after smoking. This short time period of detection in breath aligns with the peak impairment window.
A new, fair, and relevant way of detecting THC related impairment is needed.
Cannabix is developing marijuana breathalyzer technologies for law enforcement and other markets, that could be used at the point of care to detect the recent use of marijuana. Cannabix’s technology will focus only on the peak impairment window that aligns with the recent use of the marijuana. The breath test will be non-invasive and non-intrusive, leading to fewer issues with privacy. Law enforcement officials would be able to administer the technology at the point of care without the assistance of any nurses or technicians.
As cannabis laws in Canada and the United States evolve and car crashes due to marijuana use increase, we must make certain that our ability to fairly and accurately test for THC changes just as quickly. Innovative technology that Cannabix Technologies is developing could be an important tool for law enforcement officials to help keep our roads and highways safer for us all. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.cannabixtechnologies.com.