Phoenix company aims to create marijuana breathalyzer to detect high drivers

Evan Darzi, CEO and Cofounder of ElectraTect Inc, says the goal is that the breathalyzer will be portable, non-invasive, and easy to use.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 9:12 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Researchers at one Phoenix-based company are working to develop a breath test for marijuana. The test would be similar to current alcohol breathalyzers used by police, and it comes during a time when recreational marijuana has hit more than $85 million in estimated sales, according to the Arizona Department of Revenue. “We’ve legalized marijuana, but we don’t have tools that can test when someone has used marijuana,” said Evan Darzi, CEO and Cofounder of ElectraTect Inc.

Right now, local police departments use urine and blood to test drivers who they suspect are under the influence of the drug. “Traditional methods like blood, urine or saliva only say if you’ve used marijuana in the past several weeks to months but not if you’re actually impaired when you’re tested,” he said.

Scientists say part of the reason why there isn’t a breathalyzer for marijuana is because THC, the molecule that gets you high, is much more complicated than the one in alcohol called ethanol.

Darzi says the goal is that the breathalyzer will be portable, non-invasive, and easy to use. “This is expensive, this requires an expert to be running this, but we want to shrink it down and we want to actually shrink this down into something that’s portable, simple, easy to use, that you don’t need an expert to send it off to the lab and this is one of our prototypes we’re developing right now,” said Senior Scientist Dr. Christina Forbes.

Electratect is partnering with and receiving funding from an Iowa-based company that created ignition interlock devices used to detect alcohol on a driver’s breath. It’s the same kind of thing they want to create for weed. A breathalyzer could detect use in the last three hours, which is the peak time of impairment. “Fairness is not losing your job when you’re not actually impaired, but fairness is not putting other people at risk,” Darzi said.