Two Grad Students Invent Device to Detect THC in Drivers Within Minutes

Two Grad Students Invent a Device to Detect THC in Drivers Within Minutes

Kathy Stitzlein (left) and Mariam Crow put the final touches on their presentation for the inventors' competition. (University of Akron)

Two graduate students in Ohio have invented a saliva-testing sensor they say will let police determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana within minutes.

Mariam Crow and Kathleen Stitzlein are both grad students in biomedical engineering at the University of Akron. The pair designed “the Cannibuster” together and won a $10,000 inventors’ award in a competition Thursday, gaining more backers and national attention.

“Today, if a driver is suspected of impaired driving due to marijuana, law enforcement officers must call and Emergency Medical Squad to the scene or take the driver to a local hospital for blood work,” Stitzlein said in a press release. “Lab results can take up to six weeks to come back, which is clearly not ideal.”

The Cannibuster uses saliva testing and “lab-on-chip technology” to determine the concentration of THC in the bloodstream accurately within minutes. Currently, states with legal marijuana have set the legal limit for drivers at 5 nanograms of THC or less. However, without the technology to test on the roadside, officers are struggling to enforce the law. Crow and Stitzlein hope their device will change this, and plan to market it to law enforcement entities in states with legal marijuana.

As much as I believe that driving high doesn’t pose even a sliver of the risk as driving drunk, if marijuana is to be nationally legalized and regulated, driving under the influence must be accurately monitored, and this seems like a good step in that direction. I think they’ll have to change the name, though — or at least market it with the Ghostbusters theme song.