OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Police checkpoints looking for drunk drivers may soon be able to detect marijuana-impairment with accuracy.

The Oakland-based company Hound Labs, working in conjunction with scientists at UC Berkeley, announced Wednesday they’ve developed technology for a handheld breathalyzer for marijuana. The device is destined for roadside use by law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area and likely, across the country.

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Until now, the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis) in breath was almost impossible to measure with any degree of accuracy. Blood and urine tests only reveal if marijuana has been used in recent days or weeks, not actual impairment.

Currently, there is no consistent legal limit for the level of THC for drivers.

“Right now the standards are completely arbitrary. I would argue that they are useless,” Hound Labs Chief Executive Mike Lynn told Reuters.

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“Our ability to measure THC in breath really should shift the national dialogue from one about simply detecting if THC is in someone’s body to a conversation where standards can be developed that reflect actual impairment,” says Lynn.

Meantime, clinical trials will begin soon in partnership with the University of California, the city of San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital.

Hound Labs says the cost of each device will be about $1000, the same price as the average alcohol breathalyzer.

CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.

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