A Breathalyzer For Weed Is Coming To Catch And Charge Stoned Drivers

Ever since the march of marijuana legalization began in 2013, with Colorado and Washington voting to make the drug legal for recreational use and sale — Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. have since followed suit — there have been a host of legal and regulatory concerns. What are the rules for sale? Tax rates? Limitations on products like candies, which might be accidentally ingested by children? And, of course, what about stoned drivers? Well, a solution to that last one may be coming: researchers are developing marijuana breathalyzers, aimed at determining the level of somebody's stoned-ness if they're pulled over in a traffic stop.

While the data on driving while high on marijuana is still in its early stages, and it's less dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol, it's still a mind-altering drug that can have pronounced impact on your perceptive abilities when used heavily. While it's not illegal to go for a drive under the influence of any drug — nicotine and caffeine, for example, aren't prohibited in this way — it's a crime to drive on marijuana in all of the places where it's legal.

But this presents a distinct challenge for law enforcement, because up until now, testing for marijuana toxicity is only achievable by blood test, and according to Bloomberg, standard field sobriety tests like the ones applied for alcohol were passed by nearly 70 percent of THC-intoxicated drivers.

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In short, there needs to be a better way to test for active marijuana intoxication. And researchers at Washington State University are reportedly hard at work on just such a device! Bloomberg quoted WSU chemistry professor Herbert Hill, who believes that however effective a device they can produce, it'll still be an improvement on the lacking methods which law enforcement has available now.

We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have. They would have a higher level of confidence in making an arrest.

So, if you're the kind of person who's been cruising around town in your car after smoking a joint, first of all, don't do that. And second of all, if you keep it up, you could end up getting busted by a piece of sophisticated technology real soon. Whether a new field test for marijuana will have a meaningful impact on rates of traffic accidents or fatalities is yet unknown. Based on the early data out of Colorado and Washington, it's profoundly unclear if legalization has actually had much impact, but having a more immediate way to tell if somebody is driving stoned — current blood tests take 24 hours — would be a very helpful start.

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