Opponents to the legalization of marijuana believed that there was no adequate way for law enforcement to test for cannabis, which meant legalizing the substance would result in a substantial increase in impaired drivers and make our roadways less safe. Until now, there hasn’t been much to disprove this theory, but scientists at Washington State University are developing a marijuana breath test that would quickly determine whether a suspected driver is impaired by marijuana. It would give law enforcement the tools they need to issue DUI’s when a driver is under the influence and it would intimidate drivers enough to think twice before they get behind the wheel.
At the moment, law enforcement officers do not currently have tools to check for the presence of THC other than blood tests, which are never immediate and are rather costly. Herbert Hill, a chemistry professor from WSU stated that existing technology that is already in place for drug detection and real time explosive detection can be altered to work for THC.
Hill and several other doctoral students including Jessica Tufariello have been developing a small, handheld device that could be used by police officers to check for THC in drivers. It’s a device that uses ion mobility spectrometry and an early prototype could be available by as early as next year. Tests on humans would begin in 2015.
Washington State Patrol commented on the news and said they would welcome anything that the school is able to provide to get impaired drivers off the road.
Since Washington legalized cannabis in 2012, marijuana users getting behind the wheel and driving impaired has been an ongoing concern. The number of impaired drivers that have tested positive for THC has increased since its legalization went into affect, rising from 18.6 percent to 25 percent. The more technology there is for police officers to use, the less likely drivers are to take the risk.