Jan 10, 2018

The rush to invent the first breathalyzer for weed

Colorado State Troopers perform a road side sobriety test. Photo: Andy Cross / Getty

With states continuing to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, scientists and entrepreneurs are rushing to invent a marijuana breathalyzer that would detect whether someone was impaired while driving, according to STAT, instead of relying on more subjective sobriety tests.

The key problem: While urine and blood tests can show whether someone has used marijuana, they can't test impairment. While some states have set a legal limit of THC for drivers, some experts say that frequent smokers could pass the THC level without actually being impaired, according to STAT.

One new idea: Massachusetts General Hospital researchers are working on a cap, which would use a technique called functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to detect changes in blood flow in the brain. The researchers hope to establish patterns in the brain when subjects are high.

Driving high: Many people feel more aware and more capable of driving when stoned than they do when drunk. Dr. Mike Lynn, the CEO and co-founder of Hound Labs, which is working on a marijuana breathalyzer, told STAT that when his lab had people who were high on marijuana drive through an obstacle course, “all of them hit that cyclist when they were stoned, and most of the time, they didn’t even know they’d hit him.”

Go deeper with STAT's full piece.

Go deeper

The other coronavirus test we need

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers are racing to develop tests that detect whether someone may have developed immunity to the coronavirus, which could help society return to normal faster.

Why it matters: These tests could help people know if they are able to go back to work, as well as aid researchers in tracking the scale and death rate of the disease — key data for current and future pandemic policies.

What the U.S. can learn from other countries in the coronavirus fight

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Note: Cases are shown on a logarithmic scale; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The countries that have most successfully fended off the novel coronavirus have mainly done it with a combination of new technology and old-school principles.

Why it matters: There's a lot the U.S. can learn from the way other countries have handled this global pandemic — although we may not be able to apply those lessons as quickly as we'd like.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 640,589 — Total deaths: 29,848 — Total recoveries: 137,270.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 112,468 — Total deaths: 1,841 — Total recoveries: 918.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers economic relief.
  4. State updates: A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter. Alaska is latest state to issue stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month. New York moved its presidential primary to June 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
  5. World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the country's deadliest day. In Spain, over 1,300 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancing.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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