Marijuana Breathalyzer: Washington State University Looking For Volunteers To Smoke Pot

Researchers at Washington State University spoke with the Pullman League of Women Voters on May 18 and discussed that they are currently working on creating a breathalyzer that can detect how much marijuana is in a person’s system. In order to do this, researchers are looking for volunteers to assist them by smoking marijuana, according to a report by the Spokesman-Review.

The researchers are Washington State University Professor Emeritus Nicholas Lovrich, doctoral candidate Peyton Nosbusch, and city council member Nathan Weller. According to the researchers, the marijuana breathalyzer would need to be able to detect “acute exposure” to the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical in marijuana that produces the various psychological effects of the drug.

Professor Lovrich explained what the volunteers can expect by agreeing to take part in the marijuana research.

  • Prior to any smoking of marijuana, participants will be required to answer a series of questions regarding types of food and drink that they have recently ingested.
  • Volunteers would then need to go to the lab at Pullman Regional Hospital where they will be asked to give samples of their blood and breath samples.
  • The volunteers would then be tasked with going to one of Washington’s legal marijuana dispensaries and purchase some of the drug.
  • Participants will then smoke the marijuana until they feel they have reached the point of becoming high.
  • Once the high is reached, volunteers will take a taxi to Pullman Regional Hospital and give another round of blood and breath samples.

There is one optional step that participants can do: they can meet with police officers and allow them to administer a field sobriety test.

As stated earlier, the goal of this marijuana research is to help in the creation of a breathalyzer device similar to the ones used to detect alcohol on a person’s breath. Researchers hope that the creation of a marijuana breathalyzer will act as a tool that could potentially lead to a decrease in motor vehicle accidents caused by people being under the influence of marijuana.

Professor Lovrich first began developing and researching a marijuana breathalyzer in 2010. Lovrich states that his inspiration for creating a marijuana breathalyzer stemmed from the trend he noticed in Washington about people driving while under the influence. Lovrich noticed that arrests for people driving under the influence of alcohol were on the decline while arrests for driving under the influence of illegal drugs were on the rise.

If Lovrich is able to successfully create a marijuana breathalyzer, he states Washington State University will benefit financially from the device patent. He also believes, if successful, that WSU will invest in future innovations in medicine. Lovrich speculates on how a conversation may actually take place about this subject.

“Wow, that’s a pretty good investment. Maybe we should keep investing in medicines and then tools that people need for workplace and school and roadside safety.”

With more and more states legalizing the use of marijuana, some type of technological advancement in detection needs to be made. Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes and eight states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Washington State University’s marijuana breathalyzer project is being funded by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. For the investment of their time, volunteers participating in this project will receive $30 for their first hour and $10 for each additional hour of their time.

Do you think developing a marijuana breathalyzer is needed since marijuana use is starting to become legal across the nation? Would you be interested in participating?

[Featured Image by Rich Pedroncelli/AP Images]