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Cannibuster: Akron company’s marijuana breathalyzer nearly ready for field testing

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AKRON, Ohio - With medical marijuana now legal in Ohio, and as Illinois is about to become the eleventh state to legalize recreational marijuana, some people are arguing there's a growing need for a product to help police measure the level of impairment during a traffic stop.

"When we started there was one state that had legalized  recreational marijuana and my college age students said 'we need to do this, we need to come up with a test for roadside use,'" Kathy  Stitzlein of Akron said.

FOX 8 News first saw the prototype for what has been affectionately called the Cannibuster in 2015.

The handheld device uses a test strip and a saliva sample.  It can give law enforcement a reading within fifteen minutes.

Police explained there was no way to determine the level of marijuana intoxication at the roadside like an alcohol sobriety test.

"There's only two ways to test: that's urine or blood. Right now there is currently not a test by breath," said Akron Police Lieutenant Rick Edwards.

Stitzlein said those type of tests could take two weeks to process.

Other products similar to the Cannibuster can only give a positive or negative reading, but cannot give a quantitative reading for a level of impairment

Her company, Triple Beam Technologies, now has a prototype that moves the technology one more, very significant, step toward becoming a reality.

"We have come a long way from when we started our lab here.  We knew what we wanted to do and we had an idea of how we were going to do that. We have spent the last four years doing proof of concept studies and refining our idea. And then, about a year ago, we went out and got a company to build us just a concept," said Stitzlei.

But with legalized marijuana so new in states like Ohio, Stitzlein says she knows there is a tremendous growing curve not only for police but for lawmakers as well.

"The states are establishing impairment levels for prosecution and so we are using those as like our benchmark. There is still a lot of research that needs to happen on impairment," said Stitzlein.

Stitzlein says her company will soon have a working website where she will be seeking interested law enforcement participants who want to be part of a real-world study.

Her company may eventually seek FDA approval for a device that can be used at home to  measure therapeutic levels for medicinal marijuana users.

"We have had a lot of interest from labor and employers and insurance. There's just a whole bunch of markets opening up besides impairment and law enforcement, criminal justice," said Stitzlein.

Her company now has a corporate partner, Spartain Technologies, to help develop the devices and has been awarded patents for its design.  The hope is to have a working model ready for field trials within eighteen months.

"Our goal is to provide a tool and to keep up with the technology -- to make sure we are able to measure in the area that's considered impaired," said Stitzlein.

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