An increasing number of states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, yet the substance remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Since the widespread legalization of marijuana has made it more readily available, it’s believed that there are now more people driving under the influence of marijuana than there were when the substance was banned nationwide.
For years, researchers and law enforcement agencies have worked together to create a breathalyzer tool that works like an alcohol breath test, but for the detection of THC — the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives users their high. Today, many companies have prototypes of these machines, but there are still several obstacles to overcome if they’ll one day be used in the field.
If you’re pulled over on the suspicion of a marijuana DUI, you should know that there may be several ways to challenge the officer’s decision to place you under arrest, and every action he or she did prior to your arrest. Working with a marijuana DUI lawyer is the key to protecting your reputation.
How Does a Marijuana Breathalyzer Work?
One U.S.-based lab at the University of Pittsburgh is developing a machine that uses carbon nanotubes 1/100,000 the width of a human hair to detect THC in the breath, even when the breath contains traces of other substances like alcohol. The THC molecules bind to the surface of the tubes and alter their electrical properties. According to the university’s engineering department, this nanotechnology is believed to be equally as effective or even more effective than mass spectrometry, considered to be the current standard for THC detection.
Some THC breath tests, like the one being developed by Oakland-based Hound Labs, are being built to detect THC within three hours of consumption. These machines are also capable of measuring a person’s BAC. Developers of marijuana breathalyzers hope their products will be used for more than reducing instances of impaired driving. They also hope that they will be used to conduct workplace drug tests and that, one day, they may replace inefficient blood and urine tests.
What’s Stopping Police from Using Marijuana Breathalyzers?
Despite years of study, researchers have yet to find a ratio that links the level of THC in a person’s breath to the amount in their blood. Also, there is no correlation between this ratio and the level of impairment, unlike the established link for alcohol. There is yet no answer to what level of THC is safe for driving. With alcohol, it took decades to settle on a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, a number that was brought down twice and is still being debated, as Utah has led a new push for the BAC reduction by implementing a 0.05 BAC.
Developers aren’t sure if their devices could help law enforcement agencies, and even law enforcement officers are skeptical of how effective these tools would be in the field. Many show concern that inexperienced cops would rely on the data these machines produce rather than a full analysis of a suspect’s appearance and behavior, to arrest someone for DUI. Currently, studying a person’s mental and physical abilities at the time of the stop provides a much more accurate and complete picture of their impairment.
When Will Police Use Marijuana Breathalyzers in the Field?
Some estimates place the release of marijuana breathalyzers to be in late 2020; however, it’s uncertain which law enforcement agencies will adopt their use. One of the main concerns is that everyone who uses marijuana has a different level of tolerance for the drug, depending on how long they’ve been using it. Someone who takes one bite of an edible and then drives could be too impaired to drive if it’s their very first experience with the drug, while a long-time marijuana user would likely avoid any impact.
If you’ve been flagged for a marijuana DUI in West Palm Beach, consider working with an experienced drug and DUI lawyer to defend your case in court.
Fight a Marijuana DUI With the Help of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel
Historically, the state of Florida has been fairly conservative regarding marijuana use. However, the state became the 22nd in the nation to approve medical marijuana in 2014. Many believe that the legalization of recreational marijuana is just around the corner. If you’re facing a DUI for marijuana use, there may be several defenses available. Attorney Brian P. Gabriel has defended DUI for more than 30 years in West Palm Beach, and he can present a strong and competent case while educating you on the judicial process.
For a free consultation, call 561-622-5575 or complete a contact form.