New Laws, New Questions, New Tests For Marijuana

Posted by Richard Lawson | Jan 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

More and more people in the United States are expressing their support for marijuana legalization. According to NBC, a 2016 Pew Research Center study found that "57 percent of U.S. adults say marijuana should be made legal, compared to just 32 percent a decade ago." Prior to the election this past November, recreational marijuana was legal in just four states -- Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Alaska -- as well as the District of Columbia. After the 2016 election, this all changed.

Five states voted on the issue of whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes -- Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Three states -- California, Massachusetts, and Nevada -- passed the measure on election night, while voters in Arizona rejected it. Maine's results weren't finalized until a few weeks later after a recount was abandoned. Voters had also chosen to legalize recreational marijuana in that state, bringing the current total of states where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes to eight, along with Washington, D.C.

New questions and issues often arise as a new law is implemented. One of the big issues that comes up with marijuana legalization is how to determine if a driver is too high to be behind the wheel. Some states, like Washington, have set a limit on the amount of THC that can be present in a driver's blood, similar to the BAC limit for alcohol. However, unlike with alcohol, law enforcement doesn't have a quick way to determine THC levels as there isn't a marijuana breath test. At least not yet.

Several methods of quick detection are being tested including a marijuana breathalyzer. Washington State University professor Herb Hill and graduate student Jessica Tufariello are working on developing a breath test that can detect THC for Chemring Group, which is a "British defense contractor with U.S. divisions that produce detection devices for chemical and biological agents." They have conducted tests using their device and in two tests, detected THC over 80% of the time after subjects had smoked marijuana.

In 2016, the first roadside marijuana breath test was conducted by Hound Labs, according to U.S. News. The company's device measures "the high-inducing compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) on a smoker's breath." Mike Lynn, Hounds Labs' CEO, conducted the test along with a local law enforcement agency. They pulled over drivers who "were seen driving erratically or had committed a traffic infraction." Drivers were then asked to voluntarily take a breath test using the device developed by Hound Labs. The device was successfully able to detect THC levels on the breath of drivers who admitted to smoking marijuana before driving. None of the drivers who took the test were arrested, but they did have to find an alternative ride home. Further tests need to be conducted to confirm the accuracy of the results. Lynn plans to distribute the device to half a dozen law enforcement agencies first before releasing to more widely.

One other method of detection that is being looked at doesn't deal with breath, but rather saliva. One Stanford professor, Shan X. Wang, has developed a "test [that] can detect the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (better known as THC, the prime psychoactive constituent of marijuana) within three minutes," according to Popular Mechanics. This test will take some time to reach law enforcement, however. It is "still in the proof of concept phase" and it will take Wang around a year "before he has a fully-realized device that could be sold to law enforcement."

If you or your loved one has been arrested for a Marijuana DUI, please contact the law firm of Georgia DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today to discuss your case.

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Richard Lawson

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