New Pot Breathalyzer May Be the Solution to Marijuana's DUI Problem

Credit: Jory / photo on flickrCredit: Jory / photo on flickrMarijuana legalization is making impressive headway, but now states must face a different problem when it comes to one of America's favorite drugs—driving while stoned.

The limitations of current tests used to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana are well documented. Hair, saliva, and blood tests all may indicate if someone has consumed marijuana recently, but they do a poor job of determining whether someone is actually high or not. The Marijuana Policy Project reported that:

"The inability to accurately measure marijuana impairment is why both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have stated that marijuana impairment testing via blood sampling is unreliable."

Despite this, Colorado has persisted in its law that 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is enough evidence to convict someone of a DUI. Many states where medical marijuana is legal such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada have an even lower cut-off of 2 nanograms. Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason, profiled all the problems associated with such an antiquated means of measuring marijuana impairment in the July 2014 issue

A new device called the Cannabix may offer a much-needed solution to this problem. Vice reported that the breathalyzer, being developed by a Canadian police officer named Kal Malhi, will theoretically be able to detect whether someone had smoked marijuana in the past two hours. A study published last fall in the peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Chemistry demonstrated the plausibility of such a test. The research concluded that:

"Breath may offer an alternative matrix for testing for recent driving under the influence of cannabis, but is limited to a short detection window (0.5–2 h)."

If the Cannabix is all that it is cracked up to be and is actually capable of determining whether someone is too high to drive, then the pot-loving community should support its implementation in law enforcement. Having a legitimate means of measuring marijuana intoxication would unclog court dockets, lead to safer roads (even though traffic fatalities have decreased since marijuana was legalized), and allow cannabis consumers to travel unencumbered by the fear of getting pulled over by a cop that could potentially give them a DUI even though they are stone sober. It might also provide a nudge for states on the fence about marijuana decriminalization and/or legalization.

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  • ||

    This seems all well and good, but when one looks at the use of breathalyzers for alcohol, we see the same old story: abuse, inaccuracy, and a total disregard for anything except control and revenue. I can't see how that wouldn't just extend to this. The problem isn't technical. The problem is the cops and the politicians and the control freaks and the special interests and a whole host of others. Like always.

  • Idle Hands||

    I'm all for this, it's not fair that my drug of choice can lead me to getting arrested if I have an arbitrary amount. While you stoners get to do whatever the fuck you want and be all unsafe and shit. If I can't drive while under the influence nobody should.

  • ImanAzol||

    Quit harshing my buzz, man. Always with the negative waves, Moriarty.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "Having a legitimate means of measuring marijuana intoxication..."

    Simply not what this does Paul.

  • Warren's Strapon||

    More...

    If the Cannabix is all that it is cracked up to be and is actually capable of determining whether someone is too high to drive, then the pot-loving community should support its implementation in law enforcement.

    Because nothing bad has happened with alcohol breathalyzers, either directly or indirectly, at all.

  • anon||

    For tokers and drinkers, the fully autonomous car cannot arrive fast enough.

  • Tonio||

    Assuming that use of autonomous navigation will exempt one from DUI, of course. Given what we've seen, the state and the control freaks want it both ways.

  • KDN||

    Yeah, we all know that riding alone in an autonomous car while drunk will lead to license suspension / revocation and hefty fines for the same reason that pushing a bike or sleeping in your parked car while drunk can lead to the same.

  • anon||

    I hate you guys. You ruin my optimism.

  • ace_m82||

    Veritas Liberabit Vos

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    AMEN!

  • Zeb||

    I am completely unconcerned about stoned drivers. In fact, I think more people should drive stoned so they will calm the fuck down.

  • Libertymike||

    Agreed. If you toke before and while you drive, you will be as cool as the other side of the pillow or as cool as Peyton Manning running the two minute drill.

  • Acosmist||

    I have places to be. Get off the road or drive a reasonable speed.

  • Kevin47||

    Yeah, technology cropping up to address a problem that exists in the imagination of the nanny state. JOBZ!

  • Pi Guy||

    Even on HyR, this might be controversial but, I do not think that driving under the influence of anything should be a crime. Changing the radio station, yelling at your kids in the back seat, and dunking your McNugget in Buffalo Sauce all make it more difficult to react properly to potential hazards. Yet they are not moving violations in and of themselves.

    Running pedestrians down in the crosswalk should be a crime. Straight or sober, doesn't matter.

    Same hitting parked cars. Or moving ones. Offensive whether you walk a straight line or not.

    Imagine two drivers:

    - One is driving at 200 AM, on a deserted side street, legally over the limit but obeying the speed limit as he approaches a stop sign. He slows at an intersection but fails to come to a completes stop while looking carefully in all directions, then proceeds at a speed well below the speed limit. No one is hurt, no property is damaged.

    - One is driving during the day, in a town, and is completely sober. While driving 35 in a 25 zone, he fails to notice a stop sign (elbow deep in his McD's bag, fishing for fries) and barrels through without looking or even slowing down. No one is hurt, no property is damaged.

    Who's going to see the inside of a Police Station? And yet, who was actually behaving in a more reckless manner?

  • anon||

    Even on HyR, this might be controversial but, I do not think that driving under the influence of anything should be a crime.

    I doubt it's controversial here. There should be one "crime" to cover any instance of driving in a manner that would endanger someone else, and that crime is "reckless driving."

  • Libertymike||

    Reckless driving without harm?

  • KDN||

    It's somewhat controversial (I've gotten into arguments over the subject in the past) because, even here, a lot of people tend to conflate arguing for the legality of an activity with voicing approval of it.

    My belief is that the driver's level of intoxication should be used to multiply the penalties of moving violations rather than be a separate crime. Something like this:

    0.0 - 0.05: No additional points / fine
    0.05 - 0.10: 1.5x Points / Fines
    0.10 - 0.15: 2.5x Points / Fines
    0.15 - 0.2: 4x Points / Fines
    0.2+: 8x points / fines

    You keep the legal downside of getting blitzed and driving (Waive goodbye to your license for a while if you get caught speeding at 0.2) while removing the most objectionable aspects of the current regime. The only problem is you would need to be breathalyzed whenever you receive a ticket, but I'd still consider that an improvement over the status quo.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Why should reckless driving be a crime versus a civil offense?

  • Zeb||

    There are certainly some (even some that aren't Tulpa) who are OK with DUI as a crime all by itself. I tend to agree with what you say. There are tons of people who regularly drive over the limit without creating any dangerous situations and there are plenty of things other than being intoxicated that can make your driving just as dangerous as being wasted. I could perhaps be OK with DUI laws that require actual evidence of significant impairment, but just having a set limit that per se means that you are committing a crime is far too blunt of an instrument.

  • ||

    I could perhaps be OK with DUI laws that require actual evidence of significant impairment, but just having a set limit that per se means that you are committing a crime is far too blunt of an instrument.

    If cops weren't crooked pieces of shit the law wouldn't really work that way. You can only get busted for DUI if they have some cause to pull you over (or you're in a crash). Of course, your broken tail light that wasn't broken before you got pulled over is cause to pull you over, and every cop knows it. So effectively you can get checked for DUI any time, for any reason.

  • aelhues||

    I'd take it a step further, and state that we should stop making risk-taking a crime. If one takes a risk, calculated or not, and causes another harm, physical, financial, or otherwise, there should be penalties. If however, the risk taken causes no harm to anyone else, no penalties should occur. Sure, it's more risky to drive while texting, drunk, eating fried chicken or whatever, but people do it safely everyday. Leave those alone, and bring harsher penalties to those that cause damage, whether they were completely without elevated risk or not. Situations being otherwise identical, there is nothing worse about a person who hits someone while texting, then hitting someone while seemingly driving as risk free as possible.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Marijuana legalization is making impressive headway, but now states must face a different problem when it comes to one of America's favorite drugs—driving while stoned.

    I think before we cede it's a problem we need to determine how much MJ actually impairs the ability to drive.

    Is it as bad as alcohol? Is it as bad as not sleeping for X hours? Is it as bad as talking on a cellphone? Listening to music?

    Can we please do this based upon reality for a change?

  • anon||

    I know I'm a far more dangerous driver to be around after 48 hours without sleep than I am 3 fucking beers deep.

  • Zeb||

    I had to drive home from the airport in a car I'd never driven before recently after being up and traveling for over 30 hours. That was interesting. No night vision or ability to focus on things far away. I wasn't falling asleep, somewhat surprisingly, but I don't think I would have been any more dangerous after 4 or 5 beers.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I've seen some half-assed studies that show that being up for 24 hours was equivalent to 4-5 shots. I've long suspected there are many worse (legal) things you can do while driving than drinking. Be nice to get some real data and see laws change accordingly (yeah, right).

  • Libertymike||

    Are you willing to listen to stoners who have driven for decades without causing any accidents?

    This raving anarchist has now been doing so for 29 years - yep ever since a BU grad, attending the Russian School at Norwich University summer program with yours truly shared a joint with me, on the mountain, at sunset, on Thursday, August 1, 1985.

  • Zeb||

    I consider regular smokers no concern at all when it comes to driving.
    There have been a few experiments done as well that seem to support this view.

    There are certainly some people who shouldn't be driving stoned, but they mostly don't want to. The thing about driving stoned that really contrasts with alcohol is that stoned people tend to be more cautious and think they are driving worse than they actually are where with alcohol it is often quite the opposite situation.

  • Brandon||

    I don't accept the axiom that "driving while stoned" is a problem.

  • Zeb||

    It's a problem for legalization because enough people perceive it as a problem.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Maybe we should base arrest and punishment on actual harm.

    Crazy, I know.

  • Freedom Frog||

    In regards to weed or overall?

    There's plenty of people who make it home safe and then stumble to the door because theyre hammered.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    For tokers and drinkers, the fully autonomous car cannot arrive fast enough.

    Where's my damn fully autonomous flying car?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

  • The Late P Brooks||

    In regards to weed or overall?

    Absolutely overall. No harm, no crime.

  • brokedownpalace||

    "f the Cannabix is all that it is cracked up to be and is actually capable of determining whether someone is too high to drive, then the pot-loving community should support its implementation in law enforcement"

    No. Cannabis users should concede nothing. I've driven stoned every day for the past 15 years and have never even been close to being in an accident. If someone is driving recklessly they should be cited, otherwise it is just more police state B.S.

  • ||

    So you'd rather get thrown in prison than risk getting points on your license for a crime you will, if your perception of your ability is accurate, never actually get caught for anyway? That makes perfect sense.

  • Michael B.||

    ...in totally unrelated news that we assure our viewers that has nothing at all to do with DUI checks, a new trend has begun to emerge of marijuana users injecting THC instead of smoking, vaping, and ingesting...

  • DWC||

    Yeah, we really need for the state to have another tool with which to persecute citizens.

  • retiredfire||

    How about they come up with an actual test of impairment, instead of an arbitrary amount in the blood stream or exhaled breath.
    One jurisdiction I heard of, for drunk driving, had the perpetrators taken to the station, where they were videotaped going through the "walk a straight line" and other, simple tests of balance etc.
    Every one, that wanted to, later, take their arrest to court, dropped their challenge after being shown the tape. Didn't even need a breath or blood test and this could allow for those who can "handle" their drug-of-choice, better than others.

  • Thinking Clearly||

    If you assume that ANY cannabis use renders a driver incapable of driving unimpaired for 2 hours, this new breathalyzer would be wonderful; cannabis does not work that way. This junk science. Policing for profit is the name of this wonderful new idea.

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