Warren County Law Enforcement to Pilot Marijuana Breathalyzer Device

Left: Cannabix updated Breath Collection Unit. Right: Cannabix "MS Breath Sampler" technology coupled with Thermo TSQ Ultra. Photos submitted.

WARREN, Pa. – By the end of the year, Warren County law enforcement officers will have the opportunity to request breath tests for drivers suspected of using marijuana, much like they would for alcohol, thanks to a new pilot program.

Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene and Cannabix Technologies announced on Monday that Warren County had agreed to enter into a pilot program for the company’s technology for the detection of ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in human breath.

“Marijuana use is here and has been for decades,” Greene said in a release. “Pennsylvania has legalized the medical use of marijuana and recreational adult use is right around the corner. Every state surrounding Pennsylvania has legalized medical marijuana and more importantly, Warren County borders the State of New York which has legalized recreational use. The goal is to keep Warren County citizens safe from impaired drivers.”

Under the pilot agreement, Cannabix, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based company, will supply a pair of handheld Breath Collection Units to Warren County by the end of the year. Those units will be used by local law enforcement, at its discretion, for at least three months.

“The Cannabix BCU can be used to collect time of stop breath samples immediately upon suspicion of cannabis use by a driver,” Cannabix said. “Field samples collected using the BCU by Warren police (and Drug Recognition Experts) will be processed at a designated laboratory using proprietary “MS Breath Sampler” hardware.”

Current forms of testing for marijuana use can identify THC ranging from minutes to days after actual use, making it impossible to show the difference between the two.

“Currently, in Pennsylvania, an individual cannot drive if there is ANY marijuana metabolite in their blood,” Greene said. “Therefore, if an individual is completely sober, but legally used marijuana in the weeks prior to driving on PA roads, they are driving illegally according to PA law and can be arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence, see 75 Pa.C.S.A.§3802(d)(1)(iii). And yes, this happens every day in Pennsylvania.”

“Studies have shown that breath is a better indicator of impairment than saliva, blood, or urine because THC is present in breath for a relatively short period of time (1-3 hours) after consumption; whereas, it is excreted at detectable levels in other body fluids for many hours, days, or even weeks after smoking,” Cannabix said. “This short time period of detection in breath aligns with the peak impairment window.”

Greene said the ability to detect whether a person has consumed THC recently could be a “game changer” in maintaining safety while respecting the right to legal marijuana use.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Cannabix to assist in testing a breath test device that can detect if an individual has smoked marijuana in the past 2-3 hours,” Greene said. “If this device is proven to be reliable in PA Courts, this could be a game changer in keeping our roads safer with new legislation and at the same time, not infringe on citizens’ rights who use marijuana legally and still want to be able to drive a vehicle. Warren County looks forward to working with Cannabix on the Pilot Program.”

Cannabix said its BCU and MS Breath Sampler hardware, both of which have received proof of concept but are still in the preapproval stage for commercial use, will eventually make THC breath testing less expensive and more efficient than current testing methods.

“Cannabix’s collaboration with Warren County will help us in our efforts to gather critical real-world data using our technology and methods,” Cannabix CEO Rev Mlait said. “The Warren County District Attorney’s office has an unwavering commitment to keeping its citizens safe as laws surrounding marijuana consumption evolve and we commend their leadership and participation in helping advance cutting-edge cannabis breath technology. We are seeking additional collaborators and welcome such interest.”