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New Marijuana Breathalyzer Prototype

Posted by Mark Garka | Oct 23, 2015 | 0 Comments

For many years, breathalyzer devices have been the go-to solution for law enforcement officers cracking down on DUI. Although these devices are highly flawed, they can be an effective way to test for blood alcohol content if administered under perfect conditions.

Marijuana, on the other hand, poses a unique challenge to police. This is because the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, is absorbed into the body's fat cells, rather than the water in your bloodstream. Marijuana breathalyzers were long thought to be a pipe dream (no pun intended), but a new prototype from Washington State University could play a big role in the future of DUI enforcement.

How Does it Work?

This prototype device utilizes an ion mobility spectrometer, which is a component that basically separates molecules while in a gaseous state. According to researchers involved in its development, the breathalyzer currently identifies trace amounts of THC on a person's breath, but only about 50% of the time. While there is clearly a lot of work to be done, the mere fact that the test has worked at all is a huge breakthrough.

What Does This Mean For Law Enforcement?

Washington has a unique law on the books, which sets a 5 nanograms of THC per-milliliter limit as the threshold for driving under the influence of marijuana. However, there are a huge amount of scientific concerns about whether this is an appropriate limit, and with how blood tests are currently analyzed.

While those concerns will continue to be a point of contention between lawmakers and marijuana activists, police will simply continue to enforce laws as they currently stand. If these breathalyzers reach an acceptable level of accuracy, we very well may see them in the hands of law enforcement before too long.

Arrested for DUI? Call our Snohomish County DUI attorney at (888) 252-1961.

About the Author

Mark Garka

Mark is a solo-practitioner who limits his practice to DUI Defense. During Law School, he worked in the Juvenile Division for the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and he also worked in the Corrections Division at the Attorney General's Office. After completing his degree, he clerked...


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