Research closing in on a breathalzyer for Marijuana

If you get pulled over by a Police Officer and that Officer suspects you’re under the influence of Marijuana than typically several things will happen to you. The Officer will ask you to exit your vehicle. They will ask you if you have either smoked or ingested Marijuana. They will then ask you to perform some voluntary field sobriety tests, and in some instances they will ask you to submit to a drug recognition evaluation. Lastly they will get a warrant and require you to provide a blood test. But soon this may all change.

Researches have found that THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana can possibly be detected in a breath test. Yes you heard that right. Rather than seeking a blood test to determine whether you have the 5 nanograms of THC in your system, someday soon law enforcement will simply be able to ask you to take a breath test, much the same way they do in alcohol related DUI cases. So how is this possible you ask?

These researchers tested exhaled breath from both chronic users and occasional users of marijuana. What they found was the exhaled breath among chronic users tested positive for THC 80% of the time within 1 hour, and 54% within 2.5 hours. The occasional users tested positive for THC 90% of the time within 1 hours, and 63% of the time within 1.5 hours.

As a practicing Seattle DUI Lawyer I see several problems with this so called breathalyzer if it were to ever be used in Washington State. First of in Washington State we have a legal limit for Marijuana. It is 5 nanograms. This supposed breathalyzers cannot detect a particular level, only whether the THC is in your system. So I don’t see this testing came to Washington State anytime soon in place of the blood tests that are currently used in Seattle DUI cases.

However what I do see potentially happening is this kind of breathalyzer being used to determine probable case in Seattle DUI cases. Much like a portable breath test is used in a DUI case, law enforcement might start using these breathlyzers to help them make the determination whether or not a person has THC in their system. Now it is not illegal to use Marijuana in Washington State so if this portable breath test is not used correctly or used in addition to other signs of impairment we will see the same issues we see with alcohol.

Who knows if this will really come about, but with the legalization of Marijuana in Washington State I bet we see it sooner rather than later. Here is the article from the Seattle PI if your interested.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI lawyer in Western Washington. His practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI and other serious traffic offenses. He is rated as a Superb Seattle DUI lawyer by and was recently named a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.