While Cannabix Technologies may sound like the name of a company that would most likely be manufacturing that solar powered, environmentally friendly super bong that some stoners may be waiting for, bakeheads beware. Or more specifically, bakeheads who like to drive to the nearest 7-11 or Mickey D’s for some tasty treats after a few bong hits. Because if Cannabix is successful in its quest to build a better mouse…er…pot trap, law enforcement officials and employers may now have an accurate tool to determine if you’ve toked up in the last couple of hours.
The Who, the What and the Why
The brainchild of Kal Malhi, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (who, like Dudley Do Right, “always gets their man”) and Dr. Raj Attariwala, who holds a doctorate in biomedical engineering and works as a radiologist, the hand-held marijuana breathalyzer is a “non-invasive drug impairment recognition system” that “provides instantaneous results at roadside or workplace,” according to the company’s promotional video.
Malhi, who worked in the marijuana enforcement division for four of his 10 years with the RCMP, felt that with many US states legalizing medical marijuana (and Colorado and Washington extending that right to recreational weed), individuals are getting cavalier about stoned driving. “People are becoming very afraid to drink and drive nowadays because they feel that they will get caught and charged, but they’re not afraid to drug and drive because they don’t feel that law enforcement will do anything about it,” Malhi told CTV Vancouver.
The Cannabix device analyzes breath samples, just like an alcohol breathalyzer. But unlike saliva, blood and urine tests, which can cause subjects to test positive for THC (the psychoactive component in weed) well after the high has worn off, it will be able to tell if a person has ingested marijuana in the last two hours. In addition to exonerating those who smoked pot the night before and were sober but would have tested positive under standard clinical tests, it also would (theoretically) have the ability to positively identify those that actually are baked behind the wheel or on the job.
Since field sobriety tests are also used to determine if people are driving stoned, the test would eliminate the guesswork for law enforcement and would presumably lead to higher prosecution rates. According to a 2012 study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, only 30 percent of people under the influence of THC fail field sobriety tests. But while many marijuana advocacy groups correctly argue that driving stoned is a lot less dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana does seriously affect your driving. And you don’t have to be as high as Cheech and Chong in this video to be impaired enough to cause accidents.
According to a report released by the National Institute of Health, those involved in accidents who also had THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the accident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. And a 2005 French study that examined 10,748 drivers involved in fatal crashes between 2001 and 2003 concluded that marijuana almost doubles the risk of a fatal highway accident.
So if you’re one of those stoners who thinks that you drive better stoned because you drive slower and more carefully, there’s a reason that you have to drive slower and more careful—you’re too fucked up to drive the way you normally would. Trust me, as a 25-year (former) daily pot smoker, I’m not kidding myself about my former diminished ability to drive baked. I drove stoned all the time when I was younger, and while I was never involved in a fatal crash, I smashed into a lot of little things like hydrants and cars in parking lots that it’s safe to say I would not have hit sober.
In addition to the driving issue, the Cannabix device could give employers a reliable way to determine if their employees are high. Again, I wouldn’t care if my people smoked pot the night before (or even on the job—if the job were making balloon animals or something) but if you’re an air traffic controller or in another position that requires sharp decision-making abilities, you probably shouldn’t be doing bong hits in the parking lot before you punch in.
How close is the device to market? It’s still in development with patents pending, but Malhi has signed on with a medical device manufacturer to develop a prototype and hopes to launch by the end of the year. In a recent article, MarketWatch concluded, “With its modest market capitalization, ongoing development of its breathalyzer prototype, and experienced management team at the helm, investors may want to take a closer look at Cannabix Technologies.”
Bakehead drivers, don’t say you weren’t warned.