Pittsburgh researchers are creating a marijuana breathalyzer

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The University of Pittsburgh is working to help create a tool that could be used by law enforcement

The University of Pittsburgh is the latest to get involved in developing technology to help determine if someone is under the influence of marijuana. Currently, there is no good device in place, although alternatives are being worked on, and researchers at the school have created a tool that they say actually works, and which could help law enforcement conduct field tests in the future.

The device was created by members of the schools Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Chemistry and the Swanson School of Engineering. Led by Alexander Star, a professor of chemistry, and Ervin Sejdic, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, the tool is able to measure the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a system by testing the subject’s breath.

Star says of the new device, “In legal states, you’ll see road signs that say, “Drive High, get a DUI,’ but there has not been a reliable and practical way to enforce that. There are debates in the legal community about what levels of THC would amount to a DUI, but creating such a device is an important first step toward making sure people don’t partake and drive.”

The tool isn’t yet ready for field tests, first needing to be subjected to more lab-based trials. A prototype will be built to allow for these trials in order to determine how accurately it can measure THC levels. Sejdic explains, “Creating a prototype that would work in the field was a crucial step in making this technology applicable. It took a cross-disciplinary team to turn this idea into a usable device that’s vital for keeping the roads safe.”