After years of meticulous research, the so-called breathalyzers — created by Hound Labs from Northern California — may finally see the light of day in 2020. These highly efficient cannabis detectors can trace whether cannabis has been ingested or smoked within the past three hours.

The project, known as “The Hound,” was funded by Intrinsic Capital Partners and saw the collaboration between the University of California in San Francisco and Berkley; the approximated retail price will be around $5,000 per unit. As per the words of Dr. Mike Lynn, the CEO of Hound Labs, the breathalyzer will have the power to trace marijuana consumption even if it has been smoked or ingested up to three hours beforehand — aka “the peak impairment window.”

Still, according to Lynn, the breathalyzer could face certain challenges. When it comes to THC detectability, we need quite a sensitive device since the concentration of THC in our breaths is extremely low — approximately a billion times lower than that of alcohol. Basically, this means that in order to detect THC levels from our breath alone, we need an advanced device that is literally a billion times more potent than the ones used to detect alcohol levels. Lynn then went on to make an illustrative analogy, stating that tracing THC levels within our breaths was as if you had to pinpoint some 25 or 30 specific grains of sand on a lengthy beach. Another similar device is being developed at the University of Pittsburgh; it’s still undergoing various tests before it can be properly manufactured and legally regulated for use.

But the real question is — which communities are to be hit by “The Hound” first, and how would this product impact their normal, day-to-day lives? 

In the US, cannabis possession for recreational use is legal in 11 states, while medical cannabis has been approved in 33 states. As per reports, black people are far more likely to get arrested for cannabis possession than whites due to police officers disproportionately picking on black communities in general. There’s a chance, however, that cannabis breathalyzers could put a stop to the current series of racially discriminatory arrests.

Still, we need to take the history of racism within the US into account before making our leap of faith. We’re yet to see whether “The Hound” will prove itself as a game-changer or not.