New research by scientists at UCLA has developed a cannabinoid fuel cell prototype that can detect THC, the compound responsible for inducing a high when marijuana is consumed, in a person’s breath. ElectraTect, a UCLA startup, is testing the device, which it believes offers a foundation for the development of a cannabis breath analyzer that is similar to the breathalyzers used to test for alcohol in an individual’s breath. The lab device has been designed to detect the presence of THC and measure its concentration in a solution.
The researchers reported their findings in the “Organic Letters” journal. They stated that this technology could offer an accurate gauge of how much THC was present in an individual’s system, in comparison to current methods. They also explained that using saliva, urine or blood to test for THC presence could produce skewed results, especially since this psychoactive compound could remain in an individual’s bodily fluids for weeks after they had consumed cannabis.
In their report, the researchers stated that there existed a need for a fair forensic tool which could detect THC in a short window of impairment. They explained that this would be welcome, especially in countries and states where cannabis had been legalized or decriminalized, because traditional methods could lead to prosecution, imprisonment, loss of employment or fines, even if the person in question wasn’t intoxicated when they were tested.
The use of marijuana has been linked to motor and cognitive impairment, with certain nations, including Canada, establishing a THC cutoff for drivers based on the level of concentration of the psychoactive compound in their blood.
The laboratory device works in a way that is similar to alcohol breathalyzers. The sample collected in the solution undergoes oxidation, which strips hydrogen molecules from THC to generate an electric current that can be measured. The electric current’s strength directly corresponds to how much of the psychoactive compound is present in the collected sample. The stronger the current is, the higher the THC concentration.
The oxidation process used in the device was investigated by the scientists in research that was also published in 2020 in the “Organic Letters” journal.
The researchers are now focused on findings ways to make the device smaller so it can be used for inexpensive and rapid cannabis testing. They hope that future devices will be able to test for both THC and alcohol, which will help reduce impaired driving significantly. Reliable technologies that can prevent cannabis users from being wrongfully categorized as impaired are likely to gain widespread support from the industry as well as companies such as Flora Growth Corp. (NASDAQ: FLGC) since it is in everyone’s interest to ensure there’s responsible use of marijuana so that public safety is protected.
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