As restrictions regarding marijuana usage are loosening slowly across the United States, it’s expected that local law enforcement in many states will respond with stricter rules on driving under the influence. At the moment, a driver suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana can only be arrested if there is evidence of impaired judgment, but that can change as soon as this coming year. A few innovative companies across the country are developing “marijuana breathalyzers” for possible law enforcement use, hoping to reduce the number of drug DUIs across the US.
When you take a drug test, whether for employment or by request, these tests can detect the cannabinoids and components of marijuana present in your system from as long as two weeks ago. However, the purpose of the marijuana breathalyzer is not to test for cannabinoids, but for the presence of THC in your lungs. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that impairs your judgment and coordination, slows your reaction timing, and induces panic or paranoia. These effects can last for a few hours, and when someone high on THC gets behind the wheel, it’s a dangerous combination.
While there are no marijuana breathalyzers officially in use, there are quite a few in production and testing. Cannabix Technologies and Lifeloc are two businesses with breathalyzers in development, but at this time they can only detect the presence of THC in a person’s breath, but can’t quite quantify it yet like an alcohol breathalyzer can. Still, it is quickly becoming an inevitability that once the device has been perfected, we can expect to see it hit the streets as soon as this coming year.
Back in December 2015, The Atlantic looked into the marijuana breathalyzer market to uncover what the future may hold for the device. Different states around the country are issuing certain nanogram limits per milliliter of blood to measure “impairment” in individuals, but critics argue that people’s bodies will react differently to these measurements depending on the person. The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Carl Hart (a professor of psychology and psychiatry) at Columbia University who had this to say: “Typically, if you have five nanograms in a regular smoker, you probably won’t see any behavioral effects…Whereas, with five nanograms in someone who’s never smoked, you might see a lot of effects.” He elaborated later in the article that “…what’s in the breath probably doesn’t represent what’s in the brain,” when it comes to marijuana use, and how it’s different from measuring blood-alcohol level.
While we may not see marijuana breathalyzers in use until later in 2016, drivers and marijuana-users should be aware of the consequences of impaired driving due to drugs. Even if you only smoke a little, if it impacts how you’re driving an officer could still arrest you for driving under the influence. Currently in the U.S.A., only Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska have legalized the substance for recreational use. However, Arizona and a myriad of other states have only legalized marijuana for medical use. For those using medical marijuana, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions on use and be aware of how potent it is. For more information, check out our previous blog post about medical marijuana and DUIs.
After being charged with a DUI, the first step you should take is to contact the Weingart Law Firm. Our experienced attorneys will protect your rights, starting with a free case evaluation. We understand what you’re going through and work hard to produce the best results for our clients. Contact us today to get in touch with our skilled attorneys.