Michigan Employers and Medical Centers Adopt New Cannabis Breathalyzer

July 8th, 2024 Safety & Education
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A new breathalyzer designed to detect recent cannabis use is being implemented by employers and offered at medical centers across Michigan. Developed by California-based Hound Labs Inc., this device is among the first to distinguish recent cannabis use from long-term usage.

"Our product aims to deter workday cannabis use," stated Tamanna Prashar, COO of Hound Labs, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. "Unlike other tests that target habitual users, our breathalyzer ensures that individuals are not unfairly penalized for personal cannabis use outside of work hours."

Changes in Drug Testing Policies

Michigan employers have been revising their drug testing policies over the past few decades, particularly since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2008 and recreational cannabis in 2018. Recently, some companies have stopped testing new hires for marijuana to avoid missing out on talent in a competitive job market.

A significant challenge in marijuana testing has been the absence of a reliable method to detect recent use. Traditional drug tests using urine, saliva, and hair can detect THC for extended periods, but do not indicate current impairment. Despite this, the positivity rate for cannabis in the Michigan workforce has been rising, reaching 5.8% last year compared to 3.1% for the general U.S. workforce, according to data from Quest Diagnostics. This rate has steadily increased from 3.9% in 2019 to 5.2% in 2022.

The Role of Hound Labs’ Breathalyzer

Prashar emphasized the importance of Hound Labs' device in the context of these rising positivity rates. "Michigan is crucial for us due to its significant manufacturing sector and the associated workplace safety requirements," she said.

Currently, there are over 25 Hound Labs breathalyzer devices in Michigan and about 120 nationwide. The tests are also available at all 19 Concentra medical centers in Michigan, including locations in Detroit, Warren, Southfield, Troy, and Allen Park. These tests can be used for pre-employment screenings, random tests, reasonable suspicion, and post-accident testing.

Prashar underscored the company’s commitment to fair testing. "Laws and policies are evolving, but our core mission is to deter cannabis use during work hours and ensure employees are given the benefit of the doubt," she said.

How the Cannabis Breathalyzer Works

The testing process involves the donor breathing into a mouthpiece for about two minutes, similar to an alcohol breathalyzer. The breath sample is then preserved in a cartridge and sent to Quest Diagnostics. Negative results are typically returned within 24 hours, while non-negative results take between 72-96 hours.

New technology is expected to be released later this year or early next year, providing results within 30 minutes. Certified collectors from Hound Labs will administer these tests on-site, enhancing the efficiency and convenience of the process.

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