New test for cannabis impairment focus of London, Ont. study

The 'cognalyzer,' a portable EEG being used in a study to test cannabis impairment, is seen in London, Ont. on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (Celine Zadorsky / CTV London)

A first-of-its-kind study happening in London could one day decide the new standard when it comes to testing for cannabis impairment.

It’s called the Cognalyzer, a device to test cannabis impairment created by Hamilton-based company Zentrela Inc., which has now teamed up with KGK Science in London.

The device is a portable EEG (electroencephalogram) that will read brainwaves from eight regions of the brain.

“We are combining brain-signalling techniques and artificial intelligence in order to understand and identify unique patterns that happen in electrical brain activity that’s specially caused by the psychoactive effects,” says founder of Zentrela, Israel Gasperin.

He says current methods to test for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) impairment aren’t 100 per cent accurate.

“Saliva test, urine test, blood test and breath test - all of them are having the same limitations,” says Gasperin.

Those tests are limited because when someone consumes cannabis the psychoactive substance, which is THC, remains in body fluids for several hours, days and sometimes even weeks.

This can be a problem especially for law enforcement officials, because traces of THC from previous use don’t actually mean a person is impaired.

“That’s going to be crucial for law enforcement and crucial in the workplace because it is the first of its kind because there isn’t an accurate test out there yet,” adds Najla Guthrie, CEO of KGK Science.

In order to test the efficacy of the device, the study is looking for 150 participants who will have their brainwaves examined by the Cognalyzer after taking THC.

The study will take approximately a year to complete.

The ultimate goal is to commercialize the device for employers and law enforcement in order to keep roads and workplaces safe, but also to protect cannabis users from false accusations.