The breathalyzer test was invented back in 1958 so that law enforcement officers could immediately tell if someone had abused alcohol before they got behind the wheel of a car. A set blood alcohol limit was established so that everyone would be held to the same standards of how much alcohol is too much. The breathalyzer is still used by law enforcement to instantly tell whether someone has broken the law by driving while impaired.
Because the usage of marijuana has only recently become legal (and still only on a state level), there aren’t a lot of legal regulations in place to monitor its usage in the same ways that alcohol usage is enforced. So, can a breathalyzer detect medical marijuana (MMJ)? Keep reading for the answer to this question.
Can breathalyzers detect MMJ?
This question is actually a little complicated to answer, because the science and technology behind it is changing quite rapidly. At this time, there is no widely used breathalyzer that can test for marijuana usage. The only foolproof way to test for marijuana usage (either from edibles or from smoking cannabis) is through a blood, urine, or hair sample test. Currently, these tests cannot be completed in the field and have to be done at a police station.
Because there isn’t a way for law enforcement to test THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) in the field, it’s not always easy for them to determine and/or prove that someone is impaired and unable to drive a car safely. Therefore, it can be hard for prosecutors to win DUI cases for marijuana usage because it’s difficult to actually show whether someone was too impaired to drive, especially because everyone’s tolerance for cannabis is different due to a variety of factors.
Are there MMJ breathalyzers being developed?
Although there’s no current standardization of testing for any type of marijuana (medical or otherwise), several agencies are working on developing one. These firms are trying to invent weed breathalyzer tests that would work similarly to traditional breathalyzers. The person would blow into the device, and their breath would be sent over carbon nanotubes that can identify THC molecules; a digital display would instantly show the results.
Some scientists have suggested that roadside saliva tests for THC might also be useful, but these haven’t been tested widely yet. It’s also important to note that these tests would likely only be useful to test people who have recently smoked marijuana – ingesting it other ways (like eating edibles) probably wouldn’t even register on a breathalyzer-type device.
Is it a good idea to drive after using MMJ products?
If you’ve been wondering, “Do THC breathalyzers work?” the answer is that they could in the future. Even if you can’t technically fail a breathalyzer at this point in time because of marijuana usage, it’s probably not a good idea to operate a vehicle after you’ve used your MMJ products.
If you get pulled over by law enforcement or are involved in an accident, they can still try to do a field sobriety test to determine if you’re under the influence of a controlled substance. Even if you’re using MMJ products that have been prescribed by a doctor, you could still be ticketed, fined, or charged with a crime if you’ve been deemed a danger to others on the road.
How can you use your MMJ products responsibly?
In order to make sure you’re always being 100% safe when you get behind the wheel of a car, avoid using your MMJ products beforehand. Before you drive, you’ll need to determine whether you’re feeling any effects of the MMJ at that time. This can be different for each person because of your body’s individual chemistry and metabolism. The intensity and duration of the effects also varies depending on the dose and strain of MMJ products you’re using. It’s possible to feel the effects for up to 24 hours after you’ve dosed.
Additionally, these products can actually linger in your system (whether you’re still feeling the effects or not) for anywhere from a few hours in a blood or saliva sample, to 13–90 days in urine and hair samples. The best thing you can do is to experiment with different types and strains of products to find what works best for you and your needs. Then try to avoid driving if you’re still feeling the effects of your MMJ products.
If you want to play it safe, don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve imbibed MMJ products recently. Ask a friend or family member for a ride, or call an Uber or Lyft to help you get where you need to go. Although there isn’t currently a breathalyzer test on the market that can determine your cannabis usage, you are still responsible for your safety and the safety of others on the road if you drive while under the influence.
Featured image by Serjan Midili on Unsplash