As far as DUI enforcement is concerned, there has been no topic hotter over the last couple of years than that of marijuana breathalyzers. In theory, these devices would work similarly to those that test for alcohol intoxication, testing for a certain threshold of marijuana. However, the problem is that there hasn’t been a surefire way to determine this type of intoxication through a breath test. While it is completely possible to detect marijuana in a driver’s system through a blood or urine tests, there is no way to know when the driver last smoked or ingested a cannabis by-product that contains THC. While some states have taken a no-tolerance stance on this matter, other states have set a legal limit for these substances, the same way they have done for alcohol. In this post, we are going to go into more detail about whether or not this sort of testing will be conducted in the future and why they have not been made part of the standard procedure as of yet.
The Scientific Challenges
The major problem with the efficacy of marijuana breathalyzers is the way that marijuana is stored in a person’s body. If you are not away, the main active ingredient in pot is a substance known as tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. The is a fat-soluble substance, meaning that it gets absorbed in the body’s fats cells after it has been used. This is unlike alcohol in that alcohol is water soluble, meaning it is absorbed in the bloodstream.
This is why BAC tests work so well. A large component of your breath is water vapor, so breath tests can easily determine if there are trace amounts of alcohol in a person’s system. Alternatively, THC is not expelled through your breath in this same way, causing a challenging predicament for law enforcement. Not to mention, marijuana can stay in your system for as long as 30 days, meaning people who were completely sober behind the wheel could potentially be arrested for being under the influence of marijuana even though they were sober.
The Current Batch of Devices
There is currently no marijuana breathalyzer device that is in production, but there are several in research and development. The device closest to actually being produced was developed by Washington State University, and while it is functional, it is by no means anywhere near accurate, which is imperative if the device is to be used by police officers in the future.
How is Law Enforcement Adjusting?
While it has certainly taken a lot of time and effort, law enforcement agencies are starting to understand that marijuana DUI enforcement is going to require a different approach and protocol that is far different from alcohol DUIs. In response, some states like Washington has started using electronic warrants that allow for police officers to be in remote contact with a judge who can authorize the need for the testing of someone’s blood who is suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana.
In other states, police officers are being trained extensively in impairment recognition. This is helping officers to identify the type of behavior that is most commonly associated with drivers who are high while they are driving.
What Will the Future Hold?
Since so much attention has been thrust upon the importance of marijuana breathalyzers, there is no doubt that a solution will continue to be sought after. This is especially true as the nation continues to become more marijuana-friendly over time.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol, the Law Office of Loomis and Greene can assist you. Contact us today to speak with one of our expert criminal attorneys.