December 2, 2014

Police to Use Marijuana Breathalyzer to Identify Stoned Drivers

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Stoned drivers beware. Cops may soon use a handheld device to determine if a driver is under heavy influence of marijuana.
According to a Bloomberg report, a team of researchers at Washington State University is trying to develop a breathalyzer similar to the device used to determine alcohol level content among drivers, except this one is for marijuana usage. The handheld device will be able to detect if drivers have THC, marijuana's psychoactive component.

Herbert Hill, a chemistry professor at Washington State University, leads the research team to develop the handheld device, according to News Tribune.
Hill is collaborating with Jessica Tufariello, a doctoral student from the same university, to develop the device that uses ion mobility spectrometry, a technique used to detect the level of THC in human breath.
Although the prototype of the device could not identify the exact amount of THC, Hill remains confident that the technology they are developing will assist police officers to determine whether THC is present.
“We believe at least initially that it would lower the false positives that an officer would have,” Hill told the News Tribune. “They would have a higher level of confidence in making an arrest.”
Police officers are hampered by protocols to determine if a driver is THC impaired. According to a 2012 study conducted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, it takes 24-hours to get the results of blood tests to find out the THC levels of marijuana users. In most cases, police officers use traditional techniques used in standardized field sobriety tests the most common of which is to make them walk a straight line.
Right now, officers and prosecutors rely on blood tests to determine how much active THC is present in a driver’s blood. Those test results aren’t immediately available to patrol officers who suspect someone is driving high.
The recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, but driving under the influence of pot remains illegal.
The most law enforcers can do, like in the state of Colorado, is to file charges against drivers who are high on marijuana using DUI penal statutes that apply to drunk drivers.
Studies show that marijuana use leads to poor reaction time that affects a user's hand and eye coordination, which could be dangerous when driving. Other effects of marijuana include a blurred perception of physical distance and time and short-term memory.
Since the legalization of recreational marijuana use, Washington has seen a dramatic jump of 25 percent of drivers who have tested positive for THC.


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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