Are Marijuana Breathalyzers Coming Soon?

With the recent legalization efforts in Washington, Colorado, and now Oregon, it’s becoming clear that the nation’s stance on marijuana is in flux. Although the drug is legal for medicinal use in California, police are nonetheless cracking down on those who drive under the influence of marijuana.

With this increased focus, it should come as no surprise that companies are trying to cash in on the increased activity of law enforcement. Several companies, perhaps most notably Canada-based Cannabix Technologies, Inc., are developing “marijuana breathalyzers,” breath test devices that theoretically can tell police if a driver is under the influence. However, critics point to a number of inherent flaws in the science of these devices, causing many to question whether or not such a device is possible.

Can These Devices Actually Work?

Critics claim that there is no way to measure any type of blood THC content via a breath test, because of the way this active ingredient is absorbed into the body. Alcohol is water soluble, meaning it is quickly and easily dissolved into the bloodstream. THC, on the other hand, is fat soluble, which means it is absorbed into the fat cells of the body, where it can remain for up to a month.

What’s the Threshold for DUID?

Because the active ingredient is stored in fat cells for up to a month, any marijuana user can conceivably test positive long after they last used the drug. Therefore, a test which simply tells you whether or not someone tests positive for marijuana can’t really help you determine if they are under the influence at the time of the traffic stop.

If these manufacturers do figure out a way to test for recent marijuana use, lawmakers will then need to determine what amount of the drug will warrant a DUI arrest. If this is not possible, any recent use may be considered to be a DUID.

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