It seems asinine that a drug less toxic and less responsible for deaths than alcohol ever made it to the drug category deemed most dangerous by the federal government. While marijuana reform is gaining ground across the U.S., the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule I controlled substance, on par with dangerous substances like heroin and bath salts.
Schedule I controlled substances are classified based on having a high abuse potential and no currently accepted medical use. Every day, this outdated view of marijuana is changing in our country, and with the upcoming election, it is expected more states will begin to loosen the reigns on marijuana legislation. Though it is great that we are becoming more enlightened as a nation surrounding this issue, more and more drivers are testing positive for THC when arrested for DUII.
The Case for a Marijuana Breathalyzer
Exactly half of all 50 states and the District of Columbia tout legalized medicinal cannabis, and Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and D.C. also boast the legalization of the drug’s recreational use. With more and more people gaining access to the drug, more of them are getting behind the wheel impaired. This makes catching drivers under the influence of a marijuana high a top concern among law enforcement.
As marijuana reform spreads like wildfire, several companies are inching closer to making that a reality. For years there has
been a strong demand from law enforcement departments throughout the country for a portable, accurate, and noninvasive test to determine whether or not a driver is impaired by marijuana. The race for the world’s first portable and practical marijuana breathalyzer for mass use by law enforcement is currently lead by Cannabix Technologies, a Canadian technology company.
In April 2015, Cannabix Technologies set up a booth at the Marijuana Investor Summit held in Denver, Colorado, one of the few states that has legalized recreational marijuana use, to introduce their prototype for a real-life portable marijuana breathalyzer. The company has seen extreme success with stock rising from as little as 5 cents a share from when they began in 2014 to as high as 62 cents a share, despite not having released an actual
product. Investors, state governments and employers are all nipping at the company’s heels to release a portable breathalyzer, notwithstanding the many roadblocks faced by Cannabix and competitors.
Issues Regarding a Pot Breath Test
Like Washington, Colorado caps the THC limit at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood (5 ng/ mL), yet there is no scientific consensus for this. It is impossible to tell whether someone is actually high or impaired from using the drug by simply measuring the amount of THC in the person’s system. There is no correlation between the amount of THC and actual impairment. Marijuana users across the spectrum have varying levels of tolerance. A first-time smoker could be well over the limit with 5 ng/ mL of THC in their system, while a seasoned smoker or someone who uses medicinal cannabis daily would never get away with driving sober based on just this test.
There are extreme chemical differences between marijuana and alcohol that make it tricky to apply the same logic when testing for marijuana. While alcohol is water soluble and exits the body within a matter of hours, fat-soluble THC stays put for days, even weeks. Someone could, in theory, casually light up over the weekend and on their way to work Monday morning be found guilty of DUII, having not touched the substance since. A marijuana breathalyzer that only detects THC and cannot determine impairment could put many innocent drivers behind bars.
For these reasons, many believe it would make more sense to invest in better field sobriety tests or additional training for police officers. Chemical tests for marijuana produce unreliable results, and it is generally accepted that the best way to determine if someone is high is to study their behavior.
Currently in Washington, a 12 point field test is used once an officer evaluates a suspected driver and takes him to the police station. This is the prerequisite to calling for a blood test to find proof of THC in a driver’s system, which can take hours. In that time, the THC’s potency quickly dissipates. This is one of the main reasons law enforcement personnel are so anxious to get their hands on portable marijuana breath tests.
In Oregon, impaired driving is impaired driving and there is no such legal limit. Oregonian police rely purely on their observations when arresting someone for driving under the influence of marijuana. If a driver is suspected, they utilize the very same test Washington uses, only they do not go as far as testing the driver’s blood to decide whether or not to keep the driver in custody. An accurate test would benefit both law enforcement and marijuana users, who should not be arrested on the presumption that they were high based on cops watching out for stereotypes.
In the end, the main goal of a marijuana breathalyzer is to keep all drivers safe on Oregon roads. In the event of a Portland car accident, contact Richard Rizk of RizkLaw at (503) 245-5677 for a free consultation.