As the expansion of legalized recreational marijuana use continues across the U.S., law enforcement is facing a new set of challenges – how do they determine who is driving under the influence?
It’s unlawful to drive under the influence of any drug in California. However, for police to actually charge you with a DUI, they have to prove you are impaired behind the wheel – which is easier said than done. But according to NPR, one university’s development of a new weed breathalyzer may change how police test for driving while stoned.
How is weed impairment determined now?
With alcohol, law enforcement is able to easily determine how impaired you are with a breathalyzer, which measures your blood alcohol content (BAC) from your breath. If your BAC exceeds .08%, the law considers you too impaired to drive.
Marijuana impairment, however, is much trickier to recognize. Today, police have to rely heavily on field sobriety tests or simple observation to determine how impaired you are. But these methods aren’t foolproof.
Blood, urine and saliva weed tests are much more reliable, but their results take days and they can’t determine when a person actually smoked. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can stay in your body up to one month after smoking.
Hurdles the weed breathalyzer faces
Much like an alcohol breathalyzer, the weed breathalyzer device is designed to detect the presence of THC on a person’s breath. It detects only a certain amount of THC in the system to avoid convicting someone who had used in the days prior.
While promising, there is still one glaring problem the weed breathalyzer has to overcome: what does the law consider too stoned to drive? Currently, there is no way to determine the correlation between the amount of THC on a driver’s breath and their level of impairment.
Until scientists establish this correlation, the weed breathalyzer isn’t much help to police. In addition, lawmakers have yet to define what level of THC in the system is still safe for a person to drive.
For now, law enforcement will continue to use field sobriety tests to make their initial judgement on whether an individual is impaired. If you are uncertain whether or not you are okay to drive after using pot, the best thing you can do for yourself is find a safe, sober ride.