As we have discussed on our website, marijuana breathalyzers are currently being developed to measure the amount of THC in the user's breath. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh are the latest group to have developed a breathalyzer device that they claim will accurately measure THC. Further tests are required on the device before it's ready for manufacturing and use by law enforcement, but researchers hope the breathalyzer will help set a standard for marijuana DUI thresholds. The prototype looks similar to a breathalyzer used for alcohol: a plastic casing, tube for breath and digital display. Lab tests show that the device has been able to detect THC. The full statement from the University can be found here.
Many questions remain regarding if and when these devices are going to be used for DUI investigations. For example, if the device measures THC on the user's breath, how does this correlate to actual impairment? Is the device going to be able to accurately measure the amount of THC? How reliable will this measurement be? Unlike alcohol where there is a .08 percent blood alcohol content limit, California law does not have a "per se" limit for THC. Most experts would agree that one of the reasons for this is because it remains unclear at what measurement a person's ability to drive would be impaired from THC. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Assembly Bill 127, which provides funding and authorization for the California Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to study the effects of marijuana-impaired driving.
It appears that additional research, including clinical trials of the device developed at the University of Pittsburgh, is going to be needed before marijuana breathalyzer devices, at least those that can determine a THC amount, can be used by California law enforcement officers in marijuana DUI investigations. Other questions will certainly arise along the way, such as can the breathalyzers detect THC contained in edibles?
We will continue to provide updates as the research and development of marijuana breathalyzers continues. If you have been arrested on suspicion of DUI involving marijuana, CONTACT our office today for a free and confidential consultation. Marijuana DUI cases are complicated, and often difficult for the prosecutor to prove in court. Do not go to court without first speaking with a DUI attorney who is experienced in handling marijuana DUI cases.