LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) — As Michigan continues to adjust to the realities of legalized marijuana, a new cannabis breathalyzer from California-based Hound Labs Inc. is ready to accurately detect recent marijuana use, distinguishing it from tests that only show long-term cannabis presence.

Since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2008 and recreational marijuana in 2018, employers in Michigan have faced challenges in drug testing. Traditional drug tests, which can detect THC over several days, weeks, or months, fail to differentiate between recent use and habitual consumption. 

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Hound Labs’ cannabis breathalyzer aims to address this gap. The device, now available at over 25 locations in Michigan, including all 19 Concentra medical centers, detects recent marijuana use, ensuring that employees are not penalized for off-duty consumption. 

“We want to make sure that you can use (a cannabis) product at any point in time — on your own personal time being the key word — but you’re not basically unfairly dealt with if you do that,” said Tamanna Prashar, chief operating officer of Hound Labs, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.

According to Prashar, employers can integrate this technology into their testing protocols, using it for pre-employment screenings, random checks, and post-accident evaluations. 

The need for a reliable test is driven by rising marijuana positivity rates in the Michigan workforce. 

According to Quest Diagnostics, the positivity rate for the state’s workforce was 5.8% last year, compared to 3.1% for the general U.S. workforce. These rates have steadily increased in Michigan since. 

“At the end of the day, laws are changing, policies are changing, but that the foundation of what we do, it’s really to deter that use … and focus on, how do we generate the right negative to always give the employee the benefit of the doubt,” Prashar told the Detroit Free Press.

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To understand the impact of this development, it’s useful to look back at Michigan’s efforts to manage marijuana impairment.

In 2017, the state legislature launched a pilot program using oral fluid analysis kits to test saliva for THC. These kits, initially tested in five counties and later expanded statewide, provided an additional tool for establishing probable cause. However, as Mike Shaw, public information officer with the Michigan State Police, told FOX 2 Detroit, these tests were not legally binding but served as another layer of evidence.

In fact, when FOX 2 Detroit reported on Hound Labs’s weed breathalyzer plans in 2019, Shaw highlighted the difficulty in determining marijuana impairment and its impact on enforcement and legal processes. Compared to alcohol’s clear 0.08 percent standard, the uncertainty in measuring marijuana impairment led Shaw to consider the new breathalyzer an additional tool rather than a definitive solution.

“Michigan has decided that we’re going to go with the science and the scientific amount of what that is. And there is no scientific amount to determine what it is,” Shaw said.

While Hound Labs plans to engage with law enforcement in the future, the current focus remains on refining the technology and gathering feedback from employers. Prashar informed the Detroit Free Press that the new technology, scheduled for release soon, will provide results within 30 minutes and be administered by certified collectors.