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Portable Marijuana Breathalyzers Are in the Works

A police officer holds out a breatalizer that can measure THC levels.


Portable Marijuana Breathalyzers Are in the Works

A team of chemists at Washington State University is currently in the process of creating a device that will be able to detect cannabis on a person’s breath. According to reports, professor Herman Hill has been working on the prototype for the portable device that is intended to be used to test whether a driver is driving under the influence of marijuana or not.

Bob Calkins, Washington State Patrol spokesman, said the agency would “welcome anything that will help us get impaired drivers off the road,” but also mentioned that they are weary of using any new technology until it’s completely ready and fully-operational.

“It needs to be rock solid before we’ll adopt it,” Calkins said.

As of now, officers around the country must rely on their suspicions to determine whether or not they believe a driver is driving under the influence of cannabis. After an initial arrest, suspects are given a follow-up test to either confirm or eliminate an officer’s dubious first impressions. The scenario relies entirely on a hunch or an inkling from a cop. Hill hopes to help correct that problem.

“We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have,” Hill said.

Washington’s DUI statute forbids drivers from operating a motor vehicle under the influence of any liquor or drug. Although the penalties for both alcohol and marijuana are similar, cannabis charges are investigated differently. A “drug recognition officer” (DRE) is often called to the scene to determine whether or not the person driving in impaired due to marijuana. The accused person is then arrested and must submit to a blood draw. Refusal to submit is essentially admitting to guilt and suspects are charged accordingly. If the suspect has .05 nanograms or greater of THC in their system, they will face criminal charges.

There have been incidences of suspects being wrongly accused and later beating the charges following a blood test. In 2013, only 25 percent of blood samples from residents suspected of driving impaired tested positive for active THC statewide.

For people who insist on driving while high, this news may be a buzzkill. But, it may be a godsend to potential suspects who are wrongfully accused of driving under the influence of cannabis. This device may help them to avoid unnecessary problems with law enforcement. However, there may still be some snags in the science behind the device.

A study on cannabinoids in exhaled breath concluded that “breath may offer an alternative matrix for testing for recent driving under the influence of cannabis, but is limited to a short detection window.”

Have you ever been suspected of driving while under the influence of cannabis? Share your experience in the comments.



  1. Sean

    December 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I got high at a party when I was in high school. About two or three hours later I drove home with a friend that I had to drop off in Stillwater, Oklahoma. We were stopped. Our eyes were still red although I was not high anymore at all, just hungry. The officers pulled us out of the vehicle forcefully since I didn’t want to get out. We were separated, then I refused to talk to the cops and invoked my 5th amendment right. My friend was surrounded by cops for over one hour as he tried to invoke the same 5th amendment right. One of the officers new his mother or something and kept threatening to tell his mom, who knows what. Officer Canadian, Officer Watts, and Officer Comstock were the guys. Finally all three of them repeated over and over to Daniel what they wanted to hear. I think he just wanted to go home and was scared so he said yea I will sign the police report. Next thing I know we are both being hand cuffed and taken to jail for a DWI. The car was searched then impounded. Cost me over $500 to get it back. I fought the charges and they were reduced to a $350 fine with no drug court. Daniel had pleaded guilty on the police report and had to go through 4 years of drug court when it was first started in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
    Horrible town, racism and corruption are everywhere.

  2. Hanspy

    December 3, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Yes.I have drive cars in normal traffic while being stoned. Iam 62 years old now and drive almost every day.And i smoke Cannabis every day for 42 years.But i never drive stoned or high alone. Driving stoned or high is for most stoners not really a problem.And it is for others not a much greater danger than somebody driving after a not so good night sleep.But those stoned driving was with an instructor/researcher in a car with 2 pedal sets.I have done countless exams and passed them to, while smoking pot. Also done some simulator tests.Those are really bad.No feeling or real view.Accidents happen much faster,weirder and unreal than in normal real life traffic.
    I must say that driving stoned or smoking pot while driving is not ok.It is maybe not a real danger but it is just plain stupid and dumb.Wait a view hours and there is no difference with a stoner or a clean driver. Only the stoner will take less risk and is not having the habit to speed.And that is not bad at all.

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