Twenty-three states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use. Seven states having pending legislation. Five states have legalized recreational marijuana, while California has decriminalized it. With the trend moving towards legalization across the nation, whether it be for recreational or medical use, the states have to create a reliable way to determine whether a driver is too impaired from medical use to operate a vehicle. This is where the marijuana breathalyzer comes in.
How Do Officers Test A Driver’s Impairment Right Now?
An officer’s first course of action to verify their suspicions of a driver’s marijuana impairment is a field sobriety test. The three standardized tests are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, Walk and Turn Test, and the One-Leg Stand Test, which are detailed in a previous blog titled What Police Observe Before and During a DUI Investigation. An officer may also administer urine, blood, and saliva tests.
Why Are The Urine, Blood, And Saliva Tests Flawed?
Urine, blood, and saliva tests are unable to determine whether marijuana was consumed within the last few hours. Traces of marijuana can linger in the bloodstream for days. So, even if you haven’t consumed marijuana for several days and you’re not impaired, you can still be convicted of a DUI for being presumed impaired. This leaves enough room for doubt in a court room because it would be nearly impossible to prove without a shadow of a doubt that a driver was under the influence of marijuana at the time they were driving.
The Marijuana Breathalyzer
Companies like Cannabix Technologies Inc. and Lifeloc are racing to develop a marijuana breathalyzer. The first breathalyzer on the market will be a simple yes or no for the presence of THC at the time of the test – it won’t be able to provide a quantitative evidential measure. So, the device will be able to tell an officer if you have marijuana in your system, but not if you’re actually impaired. Not enough is known about exactly how much is needed to impair driving abilities, as legislation regarding legal marijuana use is in its infancy stage. However, the market for this technology is crystal clear, as the tests briefly discussed above leave too much room for inconsistency and police go through expensive and lengthy training to determine if a driver has recently used marijuana. No, marijuana breathalyzers probably won’t be used by officers across the nation next month or next year, however, expect to see high usage in the near future once science and policy surrounding marijuana has advanced.