Scientists claim device can detect cannabis in breath

As cannabis is legalized in an increasing number of states, many people have raised concerns about individuals driving while under the influence of marijuana. Drunken driving has been linked to a large number of motor vehicle collisions in Minnesota. States across the country have enacted tough laws setting out clear blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits. Drivers caught exceeding these limits can face drunken driving charges. The 0.08% BAC limit is backed up by a significant amount of research regarding how alcohol affects drivers’ decision-making abilities. However, there is relatively little research about how cannabis affects a person’s driving skills.

Many people arrested for drunken driving are tested with a Breathalyzer. Suspected drunk drivers are directed by police to blow into the device, so it can measure the alcohol in their breath. While the device is now accepted, initially, it was the subject of intense debate and skepticism. Scientists are working on efforts to develop a Breathalyzer-type instrument to measure a driver’s level of cannabis intoxication. One University of Pittsburgh team announced a new device to measure the level of THC, the active component in marijuana, in the breath.

Scientists said that the device could be prepared for industrial production in a matter of months. However, unlike with alcohol, there is no clear measurement of what amount of THC corresponds to driver impairment. It is not clear whether THC levels in the breath measure impairment at all or for how long it persists.

A growing number of people are facing drunk driving charges based on blood and urine tests detecting the presence of cannabis. DWI charges can lead to hefty fines, jail time and the loss of a person’s driver’s license. People accused of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs can consult with a criminal defense lawyer about options to defend themselves.