Washington State University is developing breath test for Marijuana

I recently read an article from the Seattle Times that discusses how a team at Washington State University is in the process of developing a hand held device that would be used to detect Marijuana on a subject’s breath (such a Coug thing to do). The article states the device would use a technique called ion mobility spectrometry to detect THC in someone’s breath. It’s an interesting article if you want to check it out here you go. Here is my take on it.

Now that marijuana is legalized in several states it is inevitable that there will be an increase in marijuana related DUIs in Seattle or anywhere for that matter. And it is only a matter of time before someone creates some kind of device or portable blood test that law enforcement will be able to use during their investigation for a marijuana DUI.

The problem is the device better be able to provide some sort of level of marijuana in the subjects system. And here is where I think this device described in the article misses. The first line of the article states, “A team at Washington State University is working to develop a breath test that could quickly determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana.” Well that is incorrect.

What is described about this device and my understanding is it will only be able to detect whether Marijuana is in the subject’s system. That is great and all, but there are other tests that law enforcement can use to determine whether Marijuana is in somebody’s system. For example the odor of marijuana is a pretty good indicator that Marijuana MAY be in the system.

So here is the problem with a device that only can detect whether marijuana may be in the system. It is not illegal to use marijuana and then drive. Marijuana is legal now in Washington State so there is a legal limit. The fact that this device may be able to detect whether there is marijuana in the system is irrelevant in my opinion and wouldn’t be worth the cost to implement this device out in the field.

Unless it can show a level or even whether the marijuana is active then this will never be put to use when investigating DUIs. Again the article misses the point, technically it is not showing whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana when it comes to a DUI, it is only showing it may be in their system. I do not believe that sole observation would meet any sort of acceptable reliability to justify placing a subject under arrest for a marijuana DUI. Again in Washington State is not illegal to use marijuana and drive.

But when that day comes when a device is created that can provide a level then “ching ching,” there will be some serious dough involved for the inventors. Sign me up as an investor!

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle. He is rated a 10 out of 10 by Avvo.com among Seattle DUI Lawyers. He has also been named one of the best DUI lawyers in Seattle by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all lawyers receive.