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What New Smartphone App Can Prevent Driving While High?

Casey took several strong hits off a bong her friends had packed with marijuana during a frat party at her school. At the end of the night, she offered to drive everyone home. Her friends were reluctant, but Casey insisted she was actually a much more careful driver when smoking weed.

Just one mile away from the party, Casey’s car swerved off the road and toppled over. Although she and her friends escaped with only minor bruises, the end result could have been potentially fatal.

How to Gauge Stoned Driving

Unlike blood alcohol levels, we don’t have a lot of different ways to test or determine if a person is too high on marijuana to drive. Luckily, someone made an app for that.

Canary was created by pro-marijuana organization NORML to help prevent driving under the influence of pot. The free app lets users undergo four basic tests to determine their impairment.

Those four tests include:

  • A memory challenge
  • A reaction time-game
  • A time-perception assessment
  • A balance test

After testing, Canary compares the user’s results to a personalized performance baseline or norms built into the program to make a judgment call. A green light indicates being fit to drive, a yellow light indicates a need to exercise caution and a red light suggests that they are not fit to drive.

 A Tool in the Battle Against Stoned Driving

Since being launched several weeks ago, the app has already been downloaded over 10,000 times and attracted attention from numerous influential people in the marijuana industry.

“This tool ideally allows cannabis consumers to take control and identify when they present a traffic-safety risk or when they may be under the influence,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML. “I believe this is information that all responsible marijuana users will want to know.”

Marijuana breathalyzers have become increasingly more common to see at cannabis trade shows. Colorado even gave a $250,000 grant to a company called Lifeloc to help them develop a similar device.

The Difficulty of Accurate Testing

But despite the need for such devices, making them poses a series of challenges for developers that include efficiently tracking delta-9 (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main compound in pot that causes impairment.

“The good news is that, just like alcohol, delta-9 is expelled in your breath if you have it in your system. But delta-9 is exhaled in the breath in much smaller quantities than alcohol vapor, so it’s much more difficult to collect and detect,” explained Lifeloc CEO Barry Knott. “It took 30 years for alcohol breathalyzers to get to where they are today. I don’t think it will take that long for marijuana breathalyzers, but it might take 10 years.”

Of course, the simplest way to avoid being too high to drive is to avoid marijuana use altogether. If you feel the need to smoke during a night out, stop and consider the underlying triggers are causing this urge and seek professional help to help address them.
Additional Reading: Teens Using Pot for Medical Reasons Likely To Become Addicted