Graduate Students Invent Breakthrough Device To Detect Stoned Drivers

By McCarton Ackerman 05/07/15

Two biomedical engineering graduate students have invented the Cannibuster.

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Two graduate students have invented a potentially revolutionary device that could aid police across the country in detecting drivers who are high behind the wheel.

Mariam Crow and Kathleen Stitzlein, biomedical engineering graduate students at the University of Akron, created the roadside testing device known as the Cannibuster. Using saliva testing and lab-on-chip technology, the device takes just minutes to help determine the exact concentration of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in the driver’s bloodstream. Although legal marijuana states have set five nanograms of THC as the legal limit, police currently don’t have a convenient way to detect this.

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

Crow and Stitzlein recently won a $10,000 LaunchTown Entrepreneurship award for the Cannibuster and have been promised $20,000 worth of advisory services from local entrepreneurs to partner with law enforcement services in legal marijuana states. Their goal is to eventually sell the device to police departments in these markets.

Last month, researchers from the University of Arizona unveiled an app to help stoned drivers determine if they’re legally high. Using high-speed cameras that detect involuntary eye movements associated with marijuana use, users simply stare into a phone’s camera to let the app record the eye movements and determine whether they’re fit to drive.

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that marijuana was the second-most common substance associated with impaired driving after alcohol. Up to 14% of car accidents in the U.S. that resulted in injury or death came from drivers who tested positive for marijuana.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.