Fort Lauderdale, FL- With broader marijuana legalization in the U.S. on the horizon, many are concerned drugged driving will wreak havoc on our roads and lead to an increase of fatal accidents. While that may or may not be true, a means to easily test suspected stoned drivers on the roadside could quiet the legalization naysayers and give police the tool they need to curtail intoxicated driving.
Currently, police must rely on urine, blood or saliva tests to determine if a driver is high, but with the marijuana breath test police can check for intoxication on the spot. The device was developed by a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer, Kal Malhi, who teamed up with radiologist, Dr. Raj Attariwala, RT reported.
Securing prosecutions for stoned driving can be difficult with current marijuana testing methods because marijuana’s active ingredient THC stays in the system for days—weeks for chronic users—and police find it nearly impossible to pinpoint when a person actually smoked last. But the breath test developed by Attariwala and Malhi may combat this problem since it can detect marijuana within a few hours after a driver smoked and is still considered to be high.
Malhi took his inspiration from a Swedish study which fist experimented with the concept of a drug detecting breath test in 2010. According to the Daily Beast, researchers in the original study asked individuals who had overdosed on amphetamines to breath into a mask. The participants’ breath was passed through a filter while the narcotic substances were trapped with acetic acid. The breath was then analyzed through mass-spectrometry and liquid chromatography– methods that are considered to be scientifically accurate. The marijuana breath test is based on the same concept.
Malhi, who worked drug enforcement for the RCMP, explained to CTV, “People are becoming very afraid to drink and drive nowadays because they feel that they will get caught and charged, but they’re not afraid to drug and drive because they don’t feel that law enforcement will do anything about it.”
The Cannabix Breathalyzer is still in the testing phase and a patent is pending but Malhi and Attariwala plan to introduce the device to Canadian authorities within the next 18 months. They also hope to send it south to the U.S. by the end of the year.
Whether or not U.S. law enforcement will jump on the chance to use the device remains to be seen since it was developed after only six months of research. To avoid excessive litigation, federal authorities will want the device to go through rigorous testing before it’s rolled out for wider use so it cannot be easily challenged by DUI attorneys.
Though researchers say the immediate results from the test will help secure more stoned driving convictions, it is still difficult to prove marijuana impairment. Marijuana, like many other drugs including prescription ones, stay in person’s system long after the intoxicating effects have worn off. This a key defense that DUI attorneys use to help their clients avoid a DUI conviction.