A Marijuana Breathalyzer from Hound Labs
It’s been a while since we’ve written about anything marijuana-related, which isn’t intuitive considering how popular this topic is with our readers. Sure, cannabis isn’t an emerging technology, it’s so much more than that man. It’s a way of life, and it’s no longer considered taboo. Now you can smoke weed in your company parking lot at work, call it “micro-dosing“, and be seen as the amazingly edgy growth-hacking millennial that you are. Better yet, just get a vaporizer like this one and smoke weed in the bathroom stall at work:
Yes, you can actually do that. It works. No smell. We’ve had one for over a year now and we pass it around the office so everyone can “micro-dose”. It’s not illegal people, it’s “growth hacking”, OK!?
While most of our readers are the type to push paper as opposed to anything heavy, real jobs that demand physical exertion will often test you for drug use. What most people don’t know is that you can easily beat these tests by drinking a isht ton of water and taking some B-12 pills. The only thing pot aficionados have to worry about is if they come up with a marijuana breathalyzer. Well, the proverbial you-know-what has hit the fan because someone just bet $8.1 million that a breathalyzer for cannabis is coming to a road near you. The Hound Labs, Inc. marijuana breathalyzer is the 1st to isolate and measure THC in breath in parts per trillion.
Founded in 2014, Oakland California startup Hound Labs took in $8.1 million in funding just 3 weeks ago for their marijuana breathalyzer (a breathalyzer is what you blow into before they put you in handcuffs) that can detect not only alcohol but also marijuana. According to Tech Crunch, they’ve taken in a total of $14 million so far. While that amount of funding for a marijuana startup may raise some eyebrows, what should really be surprising is just who is behind that funding. Remember how we talked before about a niche group of venture capitalists (VCs) who back cannabis ventures? Well, Hound Labs just hopped right over all those VCs and went straight to one of our “Top-12 Venture Capital Firms You Should Know About“, Benchmark Capital. We previously talked about Benchmark as an “extremely focused “maverick” 5-partner fund with last decade returns of 1,000% net of fees” and maybe that’s why they’re backing something so controversial.
While they may look soft without their pinstripe suits, this gang of 5 has invested in companies like Uber, Twitter, eBay, along with more than 250 startups to date. But as interesting as this VC sounds, that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about their investment in Hound Labs.
Let’s say you smoked a big fat bowl of Purple Urkle right now, straight to your dome. The high would come on strong in 10-30 minutes and last for about two hours as is typical with most marijuana that you ingest by smoking. Here’s where Hound Labs comes in:
Hound Labs can detect and measure THC in breath. In just minutes, the Hound breathalyzer detects THC and measures to very low levels – parts per trillion. The reason this capability is so important is that THC stays in breath for approximately two hours, which aligns with the actual window of impairment.
Now you see that the ability to measure the marijuana in your breath lasts only as long as the high. This means that you can now set some sort of threshold (similar to blood alcohol content or BAC) which can then form the “legal limit” for driving under the influence of marijuana. The technology being developed by Hound Labs is unique in this respect and the fact that the startup was co-founded by “a patent attorney with deep technical background in engineering and science” should lead you to believe that the intellectual property is all wrapped up. As for the CEO (and also a co-founder), he’s “an ER physician, active SWAT team member, and former venture capitalist“. That is some pretty compelling leadership to have for such a venture.
Zion Market Research put the global market for breathalyzers in 2015 at around $500 million. Since the Hound Labs marijuana breathalyzer can also be used for your bog standard DUI check, investors must see the potential for these new breathalyzers to be ubiquitous. At a cost of $800 a pop for the device, plus $15 for single-use cartridges, Hound Labs stands to benefit not only from the up-front device revenues but also from fairly meaningful consumables revenues.
For your average micro-dosing growth hacker though, what does this really mean? Well, we have to admit that we were first going to claim that “nobody drives safer when they’re baked out of their gourd” so what’s the point of the test. But then, we read the following sobering fact on the Hound Labs website:
75% of 11th and 12th graders polled in 2013 mistakenly believe they drive better under the influence of marijuana, or marijuana has no influence on their driving.
And then we thought to ourselves, “Here they are talking about how 11th and 12th graders believe that it’s safer to drive under the influence of weed when that’s what we thought all along. What does that say about us?” So much for anecdotal evidence. Now we know that people are going to say. Hound Labs has to emphasize the dangers of driving and smoking weed in order to sell their product and we don’t disagree with you. We will, however, present you with a few facts taken from Hound Labs:
- 50% of people in the U.S. now have access to marijuana legally via medical or recreational avenues
- All 50 states have laws that prohibit driving while impaired
- There is a 200% increased risk of being involved in an automobile accident after using marijuana
Now whether or not you agree with that last bullet point, Hound Labs also claims that “a driver under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol may have more than 20x greater risk of a fatal crash than a sober person” so we can probably all agree that getting drunk and deciding to smoke a big fat bowl before getting behind the wheel is a very dumb idea and you deserve to be penalized for it. If you’re keen to really dig into this research from Hound Labs, they’ve established the “Hound Foundation” which serves to better educate people about the dangers of smoking weed and driving.
Hound Labs began testing the device with multiple law enforcement agencies at the roadside in 2016 and feedback was that “law enforcement is very excited about using the device” and also that “it needs to be more rugged” leading to the development of a 2nd generation device.
If you have a job where they drug test and you’re worried they’ll bring in the hounds so to speak, you may be happy to hear that you’re actually going to be in better shape now. Just read the following:
Since THC remains in breath for only 2-3 hours before disappearing, employers can avoid disciplining or terminating employees who may have smoked (legally) days or weeks earlier and test positive for THC in body fluids (as opposed to breath) but are not impaired at work.
While this may prevent you from “micro-dosing” in order to growth hack your productivity, you can at least be assured that you’ll no longer be fired for what you choose to do in your spare time. Plus, in about 5 years’ time robots will have taken your job and you won’t have any more money to buy weed with anyways.
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