Why any claims of a functioning marijuana breathalyzer are suspect

This article looks at why any claim of a functioning marijuana breathalyzer is probably false.

Since a number of states, including California, began legalizing recreational marijuana, the race for a marijuana breathalyzer has gotten heated. As NPR recently reported, one California company claims to have created a breathalyzer that can measure both a person's THC-the psychoactive component in cannabis-and alcohol levels. However, such claims are hardly new and every time a young tech company or venture capitalist insists they have invented a successful breathalyzer to catch stoned drivers, those claims should be taken with a large grain of salt.

The race for a marijuana breathalyzer

States, courts, and lawmakers that have already legalized marijuana are not in much agreement about what constitutes being too high to drive. Some states have set chemical thresholds, often specifying that anything above two to five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood is too much. Other states, including California, have not set a chemical threshold and have simply relied on police officers trained to detect signs of drug impairment.

Both methods have problems though. Currently, tests for THC tend to be invasive, usually requiring a urine or blood analysis, nor are they particularly reliable at determining impairment. Police officers, meanwhile, who are trained to detect impairment are also making subjective judgment calls that are vulnerable to their own biases.

As a result, police, lawmakers, and safety advocates are placing a lot of hope on a marijuana breathalyzer that can accurately determine when a person is too high to drive.

Why there may never be a pot breathalyzer

However, that hope may never be fulfilled because, according to many experts and scientists, a breathalyzer that can measure impairment from marijuana is fundamentally impossible. As Wired reports, what marijuana breathalyzers are actually doing is detecting THC on a person's breath, which can determine whether or not that person has consumed marijuana recently. However, that fact alone doesn't actually prove that a driver is impaired by THC. Impairment from THC cannot be determined solely on the basis of THC levels in a person's system. Other factors, like the strain of cannabis consumed, how frequently the person uses cannabis, and whether or not the person had food beforehand, all effect how impaired he or she may be.

In other words, marijuana breathalyzers work on the assumption that THC impairment is analogous to alcohol impairment, which is simply false. That means that no matter how accurate a breathalyzer becomes at measuring THC levels, it will remain fairly useless for actually determining impairment.

DUI Defense help

Anybody who has been charged with a DUI, including for drugged driving, needs to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. Police are cracking down on drugged drivers, but the methods they are using to determine who is impaired are problematic, to say the least. An experienced attorney can help clients who have been accused of DUI defend their rights and fight back against these serious charges.