Marijuana Breathalyzers: 5 Things You Should Know

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on December 11, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Scientists at Washington State University are reportedly developing a marijuana breathalyzer device that would allow law enforcement to test drivers for marijuana intoxication.

Breathalyzers are currently one of the methods used to test the blood alcohol concentration of a driver suspected of DUI. But Washington State University scientists believe that same technology can be repurposed to allow for the officers to determine marijuana intoxication, reports The Seattle Times.

What should you know about this marijuana breathalyzer and marijuana DUIs in general? Here are five things to keep in mind:

  1. No marijuana breath test device is currently in use by law enforcement. Although there are other prototypes under development -- such as the Cannabix Marijuana Breathalyzer -- there is, at present, no marijuana breath test device in use by law enforcement.
  2. Current testing methods include drug swabs. Among the methods used by law enforcement to determine drug impairment in drivers currently are mouth swabs. These swabs test for the presence of marijuana and other drugs present in a driver's saliva.
  3. Blood tests used to determine level of THC. Although drug swabs may detect the presence of drugs, blood tests are typically used to determine the amount of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, present in a person's system. The results of these tests are not immediately available, however, meaning that officers often make a pot-related DUI arrest based on observations of a driver's movements and behavior.
  4. Human breath testing is set to start in 2015. According to the scientists working on the marijuana breathalyzer project, testing will start between January and June of 2015.
  5. Marijuana legalization may have caused a rise in marijuana-impaired drivers. Why the demand for a marijuana breathalyzer? It's partly due to the fear that drugged driving will increase following pot-legalization efforts in Washington and other states. In Washington, for example, the number of blood samples testing positive for THC taken from impaired drivers rose from 18 percent to 25 percent in 2013, the first year that Washington's recreational pot law was in effect.

Learn more about drug and alcohol DUIs at FindLaw's section on DUI Law.

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