April 20, 2016 - 11:30 AM
OKANAGAN - A new tool will help marijuana users and police monitor level of consumption, but announcing it on 4/20 could be seen as a buzzkill to many on the user side.
With legalization looming, UBC Okanagan chose today, the unofficial day of celebrating all things marijuana, to announce the marijuana breathalyzer recently developed at the university might soon be put to work by police across Canada.
“It was deliberate,” UBC Okanagan media liaison Patty Wellborn says. “People will be talking about marijuana all day, so it will get people’s attention. And with the federal health minister announcing legislation will be ready next year, it’s very good timing."
Known as a microfluidic breath analyzer, it can be made with a 3-D printer for about $15, according to Mino Hoorfar, the UBC Okanagan engineering professor who developed the handheld device along with PhD student Mohammad Paknahad.
The device uses a highly sensitive semi-conductor gas sensor inside a channel that’s less than the width of a human hair.
When someone exhales into the device, the sensor records and analyzes the THC content, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and provides an immediate 'smellprint' showing level of consumption.
The device is superior to the current oral swab and much faster than a conventional blood test but still lacks one thing, Hoorfar points out — a legal definition of marijuana impairment.
Hoorfar says when legalization does happen in Canada, the device will help police, but it is also meant for self-testing and monitoring by individuals.
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