New devices catch high drivers: police in testing phase

Hanna Anderson—

Marijuana is becoming more widespread across the world with more countries passing the legislation making it legal. But, when one country makes that kind of substance legal for recreational use, it usually triggers the increase of marijuana-impaired driving. So to prevent increasing of car accidents caused by high driving, a state has to regulate it by the law.

There are a few examples of the states which have made a progress in regulating drugged driving. For instance, in Colorado and Washington states it is legal to drive with nine nanograms of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC- the main substance of marijuana) in blood.

But, when it comes to driving, how can police officers determine whether someone is driving high? How is it measured? Is the test reliable and precise?

Measuring Problem

Unlike alcohol—in which case impairment is easily and most precisely measurable—when it comes to marijuana impairment it’s more difficult.

As the matter of fact, the problem with marijuana is simple. THC remains in person’s blood for weeks, up to three months after taking the drug. That does not mean it would influence everyday activities or driving abilities, but it remains in the blood leading to positive testing.

Measuring Until Now

Usually, police officers are trained to recognize those who sit behind the wheel after having a joint. If suspected of a driver driving under the influence of marijuana the driver would also be asked to take horizontal gaze nystagmus test, walk and turn test, one-leg stand. If failing the test, the driver will be ordered to provide a blood, breath, or urine test.

While Canada moves closer to legalizing marijuana, the police officers across the country are testing new devices currently testing roadside oral fluid drug screening devices. If the devices are proven to be reliable, they will be used as an official test.

What is the issue with THC breathalyzer devices? THC usually stays in the breath for a few hours, so if the device detects it, the person probably smoke recently and might still be impaired. However, some studies suggest that the data taken with marijuana breathalyzers is limited.

New Measuring Technologies

Strict marijuana laws in different countries have always restricting research conducted to develop cheap and reliable breathalyzer tests. Currently, there are many small and larger companies working on developing the portable, handheld marijuana breathalyzer and easy to use by the police. We can only hope to have a solution to this problem in the near future.

Drunk Driving vs High Driving Infographic

The infographic from OMQ law firm explains what is the difference between Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), how alcohol and THC levels are measured, and what the existing penalties are in Canada and the USA.

Let’s take a look at what is considered illegal in these two countries, and the differences between them and what can other countries learn from them.

Link for the infographic: