East Bay cops to begin carrying pot breathalyzers

East Bay cops might soon be able to properly police cannabis-related DUIs.

Oakland tech startup Hound Labs announced on Wednesday new technology that will enable law enforcement to immediately and accurately measure current levels of marijuana’s psychoactive compound THC via breath samples, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Trials on the new technology will start early next year, the same time Alameda County sheriff’s deputies will be given prototype handheld devices to conduct roadside tests on those who volunteer.

Current swab and blood tests are severely inaccurate, as they can detect traces of THC up to one month after a single use. These failed tests have led to a problem within the cannabis-using community derisively called “sober DUIs.”

The Hounds Lab device hopes to remedy this major concern in law enforcement as legalization spreads throughout the states.

“If they have a test like that, it would help both ways,” said retired California Highway Patrol Commissioner Dwight “Spike” Helmick, to the Chronicle. “It would help law enforcement and it would let a lot of people off the hook who may not have been under the influence when they were pulled over.

Helmick has discussed the technology with Hound Labs CEO Mike Lynn, a former venture capitalist who now works as an emergency room physician at Highland Hospital in Oakland and a reserve officer in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

“By measuring the amount of THC in breath, we can focus on people who are impaired,” Lynn told the Chronicle. “We hope that eventually this will start a national dialogue.”

Experts say that stopping more legitimately impaired drivers can only help the cause for further marijuana law reform rather than hurt it.

“For many people out there, the concern about drugged driving is one of the main political hindrances to supporting legalization,” said Andrea Roth, a professor of law at UC Berkeley who has conducted extensive research on impairment testing, to the Chronicle. “And I think anything that could be seen as a legitimate way of dealing with DUI-marijuana can only help the legalization movement.”

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