A recent study funded by the federal government highlights the challenges associated with developing a cannabis breathalyzer. The research, conducted by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Colorado Boulder University, demonstrates that determining recent marijuana use based on THC levels in breath is highly unreliable due to inconsistencies.
The study, published in the “Breath Research” Journal, involved 18 participants from Colorado who consumed retail marijuana with approximately 25% THC. Breath and blood samples were taken 15 minutes before and one hour after smoking marijuana, using a well-equipped white van conveniently parked outside their homes. The analysis was conducted in a laboratory setting, as NIST clarified that it is not currently working on a breathalyzer device. Instead, the agency concentrated on learning more about how to precisely measure THC and other related substances in a breath sample.
Only 8 of the 14 individuals who supplied breath samples before and after using marijuana showed the anticipated increase in THC levels. The remaining findings lacked clarity, with three after-use breath samples exhibiting no detectable THC, and the others exhibiting amounts that were comparable to or lower than the baseline.
In contrast, the study found that the level of THC in the blood, specifically measured through plasma, proved to be a more accurate indicator of recent marijuana use. Even though THC levels in blood demonstrated compliance with the study procedure and showed a considerable increase right after usage, THC levels in breath after an hour did not always surpass the baseline.
Tara Lovestead, the supervisory chemical engineer at NIST and coauthor of the report, expressed surprise at the similar range of THC levels in breath samples taken before and after marijuana use.
While the study’s small scale limits the statistical significance of the results, NIST and the authors emphasized the need for more research.
As cannabis legalization progresses in more states, entrepreneurs and scientists are striving to create THC field sobriety tests, such as breathalyzers. However, despite efforts from companies such as Hound Labs in Oakland, California, which anticipated deploying its device to regulators and law enforcement in 2016, widespread adoption of any marijuana field sobriety test has not yet been achieved.
The recent study received funding from a grant provided by the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice. The study team has also received an extra $1.5 million to carry out and expand the study. To provide more statistically meaningful results, the following phase will include 40 or more people and more breath samples.
The marijuana industry is still in flux, and much could change at the state and federal level regarding the way in which this substance is regulated. This is because policy often evolves in response to the emerging scientific data about something, and marijuana policy is no different. As society changes its perception towards marijuana, we are seeing many companies such as IGC Pharma Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) seeking to tap the medicinal qualities of cannabis by developing formulations for chronic pain and other indications from compounds extracted from the marijuana plant. These drugs could broaden the options that patients have in the coming years.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to IGC Pharma Inc. (NYSE American: IGC) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/IGC
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