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With the number of states that have passed recreational marijuana laws, the need to detect stoned drivers has increased. Technology companies have come to the rescue, creating devices to detect whether an individual has recently smoked or ingested marijuana. While the devices are still undergoing testing, one researcher, who happens to be a volunteer officer, has begun field testing.
Like the alcohol breathalyzers that are commonplace, the marijuana breathalyzer detects the active ingredient, THC, in an individual's breath. Based on the reading provided, an officer will be able to tell if a person has recently ingested or smoked marijuana. However, unlike alcohol, where there have been countless studies regarding the point of impairment, the research in regards to marijuana is lacking.
Marijuana, unlike alcohol, cannot be as accurately detected in urine, saliva, or blood tests. While it will show up in all three tests, the problem is that it can show up for days, weeks, or even months after the last consumption. The breathalyzer serves to bridge the gap in evidence an officer would need, not just to make an arrest, but also to make a court conviction more probable.
The pot breathalyzer would allow officers to premise an arrest for DUI on marijuana based not only on a field sobriety test, but also on a breathalyzer reading that shows the driver has consumed marijuana within the last few hours. The device cannot detect marijuana use beyond a few hours.
While nearly half the country now allows either medical or recreational marijuana, the pot breathalyzers are not set to be publicly available for some time. The manufacturers are trying to rush the product to market, but more time is still needed.
The devices still need to go through rigorous testing for accuracy, as well as the development of a standardized scale for when a person should be considered inebriated by marijuana. Just like many states have adopted the 0.08% BAC standard, a similar standard will need to be developed for marijuana before these devices can actually be effective.
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