Driving high? Chemists make strides toward marijuana breath analyzer

October 6, 2022 ·

A UCLA chemist and colleagues are now a step closer to their goal of developing a handheld tool similar to an alcohol Breathalyzer that can detect THC on a person’s breath after they’ve smoked marijuana.

In a paper published in the journal Organic Letters, UCLA organic chemistry professor Neil Garg and researchers from the UCLA startup ElectraTect Inc. describe the process by which THC introduced, in a solution, into their laboratory-built device can be oxidized, creating an electric current whose strength indicates how much of the psychoactive compound is present.

With the recent legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in many states, including California, the availability of a Breathalyzer-like tool could help make roadways safer, the researchers said. Studies have shown that consumption of marijuana impairs certain driving skills and is associated with a significantly elevated risk of accidents.

In 2020, Garg and UCLA postdoctoral researcher Evan Darzi discovered that removing a hydrogen molecule from the larger THC molecule caused it to change colors in a detectable way. The process, known as oxidation, is similar to that used in alcohol breath analyzers, which convert ethanol into an organic chemical compound through the loss of hydrogen. In most modern alcohol breath analyzer devices, this oxidation leads to an electric current that shows the presence and concentration of ethanol in the breath.

Since their 2020 finding, the researchers have been working with their patent-pending oxidation technology to develop a THC breath analyzer that works similarly. ElectraTect has exclusively licensed the patent rights from UCLA. (lacannabisnews.com) Full Story

In category:Legal
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