Since more states have legalized and decriminalized recreational and medical marijuana, the public is worried about the increase in car accidents involving high drivers. However, several companies have developed new breathalyzers that detect when a person recently had THC, which is the psychoactive component that produces the high from cannabis.
Currently, law enforcement officials rely on blood tests to detect the presence of THC in someone's system. However, these tests detect marijuana that was consumed up to a month ago, while the new breathalyzers made from Hound Labs, Sanntek, and the University of Pittsburgh's Star Lab are a billion times more sensitive than breath tests for alcohol levels.
Other methods police officers use to detect cannabis use include:
- Observations – Common signs of intoxication include red and watery eyes, slurred speech, awe well as delayed movements and responses. However, some of these signs may not indicate marijuana use.
- Field sobriety tests – These tests assess a driver's attentiveness, balance, response time, and other behaviors. Yet, they can be subjective and not enough to convict someone of drugged DUI.
- Blood, hair, or urine sample tests – As we mentioned before, these tests do not indicate if a driver was under the influence at the time of the traffic stop. Additionally, the results can take days or weeks to arrive.
- Drug-recognition experts (DRE) – These officers are specially trained to determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs. But since most of these officers are not medically trained, some courts may not accept the evidence DREs have collected.
Since these devices are more sensitive compared to their alcohol counterparts, they can detect even extremely low amounts of THC within three hours. According to Hound Labs, THC levels are generally unnoticeable after three hours.
Although these breathalyzers show promise, a lot of skepticism remains about their trustworthiness. Because cannabis is still designated as a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government, these strict regulations have resulted in a lack of human testing and made any marijuana-related research extremely difficult.
Furthermore, pot doesn't have the same intoxicating effects as alcohol and affects people in different ways. This means that law enforcement officials have yet to establish a legal limit, like the .08 percent limit for alcohol in most states, because those who regularly consume marijuana have a higher threshold compared to novice users.
Lastly, police departments are concerned that officers with less training might use such breathalyzers as a crutch, rather than evaluating a person's physical, mental, and cognitive state.
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related DUI in Washington, contact the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC today and schedule a consultation to learn about your legal options.