With marijuana legalization becoming more commonplace in the United States, as well as budding (no pun intended) its head in Canada, companies looking to create methods to prevent and correctly apprehend drivers under the influence are gaining traction. Much like a breathalyzer to test for Blood Alcohol Content, a marijuana breathalyzer would act in the same way, but requires a great deal more technological prowess as well as accuracy, in order to determine between a currently intoxicated driver and one that is past the high but retains the THC within his or her system.
As law enforcement agencies get their equipment through contracts, much like Axon Enterprise Inc (formerly known as TASER International,) which is a company that supplies the US’ police officers with, well, Tasers, this marijuana breathalyzer will most likely end up being a “winner-take-all” for whichever company reaches market first, or at the very least puts pen to paper before the other one.
Currently in the tight race we have Hound Labs and Cannabix as the pace setters. The former an Oakland startup driven by the motivation of a former venture capitalist as well as scientist and police officer. The latter, Cannabix is a Canadian company started by a retired Mountie and partnered with a physician.
Hound Labs has as recently as last week acquired $8.1 million funding from a VC firm by the name of Benchmark Capital, the same entity that funded Uber and Snapchat, after it had reported successful live tests for almost two years as well as the beginning clinical trials at the University of California, San Francisco in May of this year. The breathalyzer would be initially marketed for police officers, and would cost approximately the same as a standard breathalyzer, in the region of $500-$1000, but could also include a BAC component in addition to THC. The company does have plans to expand into business settings, where drug tests are common.
Cannabix has developed a Beta 2.0 and recent press releases have shown excellent sensitivity and accuracy of reporting THC in a person’s breath. This coupled with the recent hiring of Dr. David Hasman and the introduction of live tests in British Columbia signal good fortunes for Cannabix. However, the estimated release date is over a year from now, and the price is said to be from $1000-$1500, a significantly more expensive piece of equipment than Hound Labs is offering.
Hound Labs seems to hold the advantage of both time and cost, with product rollouts scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2017, and with a price range $500 lower than Cannabix, it seems to be the way to go. Cannabix however, can still make up the ground should their Beta 2.0 live tests reveal greater accuracy, or rate of detection than Hound Labs equipment, but after seeing an $8.1 million line of funding go to its direct competitor there may be troubles ahead for the Canadian company. It wouldn’t hurt to hold both of these companies, but with Cannabix being a volatile penny stock and Hound Labs holding clear advantages in the race for the “winner-take-all” the latter hold more promise.