New Breath Test May Detect THC

How do police officers currently test for marijuana use among drivers?

As more states legalize the use of marijuana, it has become all the more important for police officers to have accurate tests at their disposal to determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana. Currently, American police can only test for marijuana usage by taking blood, hair, or bodily fluids from the suspect. These tests are intrusive, take time, and offer limited reliability as to current marijuana use. Two companies have recently developed marijuana breathalyzer tests that could drastically impact drugged DUI testing across the country.  

Dual THC/Alcohol Breathalyzers

California based company Hound Labs Inc. announced that it created the first device that can measure both alcohol and marijuana levels in a person’s system using their breath. The device is being called the Hound Breathalyzer and initial testing looks promising as to its reliability. A study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, found that the device could detect and measure THC usage in a three-window period after a person has smoked the drug. This is important because research shows marijuana users are most impaired within the first three hours.

The Hound Breathalyzer will return results within minutes, which is challenging given the low levels of THC that exist in a user’s breath. If adopted by police stations nationwide, this test could eliminate the likelihood that marijuana users are arrested and charged despite not currently being under the influence of the drug. While a hair or blood test is accurate in detecting marijuana use, these tests can pick up on the ingestion of the drug days before the DUI arrest.

SannTek Labs, based out of Canada, is also entering the THC/alcohol breathalyzer field. This company has announced the development of a test that can detect both THC and alcohol, and has the backing of a major U.S. investor. Yet a third group of developers has entered the field, with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh having developed a breathalyzer that uses microscopic pieces of carbon to collect the THC molecules.  

As development continues of these THC detector devices, state laws will likely need to adapt by clearly defining what levels of THC should lead to a drugged driving arrest. For now, anyone arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs should consult with a DUI defense lawyer as possible to protect their legal rights.

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