Ex-RCMP officer co-invents marijuana breathalyzer
Published Sunday, June 15, 2014 10:36PM EDT
A former British Columbia RCMP officer has co-invented a marijuana breathalyzer he hopes will eventually be used to catch motorists who "drug and drive."
Kal Malhi worked in the drug enforcement division for four of his 10-year RCMP career. Malhi says many drivers in Canada are not afraid to get behind the wheel when they’ve been using marijuana because they don’t believe they will get caught.
"People are becoming very afraid to drink and drive nowadays because they feel that they will get caught and charged, but they’re not afraid to drug and drive because they don't feel that law enforcement will do anything about it," Malhi told CTV Vancouver on Sunday.
But the ex-officer hopes to change that attitude in Canada.
Dubbed the Cannabix Breathalyzer, Malhi's device works in a similar way to a traditional breath analyzer police officers use to test drivers suspected of operating a vehicle while inebriated. The device, which is pending a patent and still has to undergo further field testing, could potentially detect if cannabis was use within the previous two hours.
"As engineers, we’re always trying to make the world a little bit better," co-inventor and Vancouver-based radiologist Dr. Raj Attariwala told CTV.
He says that as a medical doctor, the "biggest wrecks that come through (a) hospital" are usually a result of impaired driving.
According to a 2011 study published in the B.C. Medical Journal, there is "clear evidence that cannabis, like alcohol, impairs the psychomotor skills required for safe driving. Cannabis intoxication slows reaction time and impairs automated tasks such as tracking ability (staying within a lane) or monitoring the speedometer."
Currently, police officers in Canada rely on sobriety tests to catch cannabis-impaired drivers. Penalties for driving while impaired on drugs are often the same as those for driving with a blood alcohol level over 0.08. They include fines of $1,000 or more, a one-year licence suspension, and the possibility of a criminal record.
To criminally prosecute a pot-impaired driver, blood tests or mouth swabs are usually required. But because it is difficult to prove a motorist has been driving under the haze of marijuana, the penalty for suspected cannabis-impaired driving in B.C. is usually a 24-hour roadside suspension.
Malhi said he hopes to be able to present his marijuana breathalyzer to the minister of justice and the National Highway Traffic Safety Authority within the next 18 months. He said he hopes the device will also be used in workplaces where drug testing is conducted.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Tom Popyk