Hound Labs Sniffs out Marijuana Breathalyzer for THC Levels

Hound Labs, Inc., creator of the gHound marijuana breathalyzer, announced  that it has conducted high-speed driving tests on a track to observe drivers under the influence of marijuana. The objective was to measure THC breath levels in drivers, during, and after navigating the course so the Hound team could analyze the relationship between breath levels and driving. This is the first time anyone has used a marijuana breathalyzer to collect THC measurements from breath in conjunction with a high-speed driving test developed to gauge judgment, reaction time, peripheral awareness, multi-tasking, and decision-making.

The company developed the driving tests in conjunction with scientists from Triple Ring Technologies and Johannes van Overbeek, a professional race car driver and performance driving instructor who currently races a prototype in the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. The 1.5-mile loop test course re-created conditions needed to assess the skills essential to safe driving on highways and freeways. Drivers navigated the course sober and then smoked marijuana 30 minutes prior to driving the same course again at speeds up to 65 mph. Accompanied by van Overbeek in the passenger seat, test drivers encountered construction zones, debris on the shoulders, standard road signs, and unexpected obstacles designed to require rapid decision-making and action to avoid collisions. Prior to the test, Hound Labs implemented extensive safety protocols to ensure the safety of the drivers, crew, and track spectators.

“When the drivers were sober, they made no mistakes, but each driver made a series of errors when stoned — hitting cones, crashing into larger obstacles, and unfortunately colliding with a bike that was on the shoulder of the road,” said van Overbeek. “Driving at the limit professionally, which requires total focus and commitment, gives me unique insight into a driver’s impairment as it pertains to stoned driving.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation recently revealed preliminary data that shows a 24 percent increase in traffic fatalities since 20141, when the state began selling legal recreational marijuana. The data does not clearly indicate how many of these fatalities were associated with marijuana impairment versus marijuana detection. It is important to understand the correlation between recent marijuana use and impairment — whether the user is behind the wheel, in the cockpit, or at the job site. Relying on the tests currently available for THC in saliva, blood, and urine is inadequate because THC remains in those body fluids for days or even weeks — long after the period of impairment. To indicate recent use, it is necessary to test for THC in breath, where it remains for only a couple of hours before disappearing. The Hound marijuana breathalyzer and its pioneering science solve this problem and make it possible to establish recent use, providing the data essential to correlate with impairment.

“The topic of how much marijuana is too much before driving is one that is dominating conversations across the U.S. and the world as more states and countries contemplate marijuana legalization,” said Dr. Mike Lynn, CEO and Co-Founder of Hound Labs, Inc. “What we learned from observing the drivers during our track tests was that they were all clearly impaired, whether they were frequent or infrequent marijuana users. They made a series of potentially fatal errors within 30-45 minutes of smoking marijuana — even with extremely low levels of THC in their breath. This is the first phase of the more extensive testing needed to determine breath levels of THC that correlate with driving impairment.”

Hound Labs began clinical trials with its Hound marijuana breathalyzer in May at San Francisco General Hospital. This research marks the first measurement of recent THC use in breath during clinical trials with a highly accurate and portable device that is easy to use at the roadside or in the workplace. The company plans to continue conducting driving tests and is beginning conversations with partners to help further research and raise awareness about driving under the influence of marijuana.

In addition to clinical trials and track tests, Hound Labs continues to conduct field studies with law enforcement agencies. The company plans to begin manufacturing the Hound marijuana breathalyzer at the end of 2017.