"If You Are Going to Get High, You Better Not Drive," or some other public service slogan will surely be plastered on billboards all across America as soon as science figures out a way to stick it to the average citizen with the marijuana breathalyzer.
Ever since legalized recreational marijuana was made a reality last year by voters in Colorado and Washington, the powers that be have been brainstorming new ways in which to prosecute the legal marijuana user. Obviously, driving stoned is high on the list of no-nos.
In fact, a team of researchers recently published a document in the medical journal Clinical Chemistry that suggests a breath test -- similar to the testing procedures for alcohol intoxication -- may be the best way for law enforcement to analyze a motorist’s THC level. Researchers believe that the breath method of testing could eventually phase out the controversial THC-blood test currently being used to prosecute people in courtrooms all over the country.
Researchers say that in a study group consisting of everyday stoners and weekend warrior-style occasional smokers, they were able to detect levels of THC, the principle psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that would be most likely to affect the way a person drives, by collecting breath samples.
What they found was that while every breath sample collected tested positive for THC almost immediately following the participant getting high, the only group to maintain a positive test after four hours were the everyday stoners. Interestingly, while 90% of the part-time smokers tested positive for THC within an hour of smoking, none of them tested positive after about 90 minutes.
This means that a marijuana breathalyzer manufactured under these principles would only be effective for somewhere between 30 minutes to two hours immediately following a person’s participation in an old-fashioned toke and choke ritual.
So far, the outcome of the study holds some good news for the occasional smoker, but how would a law enforcement device that measures THC levels affect the die-hard smoker chiefing it up on the regular?
In its current form, the advent of the marijuana breathalyzer could prove extremely bad for the regular cannabis connoisseur because those people have the potential to test positive for THC after a week of abstinence -- sometimes longer depending on the body fat of the individual.
Technically, the user could be more to stone-sober than stoned and still be arrested for driving under the influence. Without a doubt, more research is needed in order to properly determine marijuana intoxication levels in this manner.
“Breath may offer an alternative matrix for testing for recent driving under the influence of cannabis, but is limited to a short detection window,” researchers concluded in their study titled “Cannabinoids in Exhaled Breath following Controlled Administration of Smoked Cannabis.”