As marijuana becomes more popular and widely accepted, it makes sense that there are going to be more and more people who use it improperly.
Just as many people drive drunk and their car ends up in an auto recycling yard, a lot of people are also known to drive under the influence of marijuana. While it is fairly easy for a police officer to tell whether or not someone is driving drunk due to the smell and lack of motor skills, it is not quite so easy to tell if someone has been smoking. Just as there is a breathalyzer for alcohol, there is now a project underway for police officers to be able to tell immediately whether someone is driving under the influence of marijuana.
What is it?
The new marijuana test is very similar in nature to the breathalyzer used for alcohol. It is a spit test that was developed by a Stanford University professor by the name of Shan Xiang Wang, and it can detect how much THC (the chemical that gets users high) is in someone’s body within three minutes.
The test works so quickly that police officers don’t even need to take the sample in to a lab to have the results read. Results are simply delivered after the reading via bluetooth to the officer’s phone. Other methods of testing like taking blood or urine samples are both too invasive for side of the road interaction as well as too time consuming. That’s part of what makes this new method so appealing.
How Does It Work?
To put it in as simple terms as possible, the test works by using tiny nanoparticles that fit together with the THC particles perfectly. This means that the test is able to measure exactly how many nanograms of THC there are in someone’s body for every milliliter of saliva. While it is simply a lab concept at the moment, Wang and his team plan to create the device that a police officer could actually use in the coming months.
What This Means
Since legalized marijuana is such a new concept in the United States, there are still a lot of different rules and regulations for the government to figure out. For example, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety still isn’t even sure that measuring the amount of THC in the blood is a useful way to tell how intoxicated an individual is.
As the body processes THC in a manner that is much different that it does for alcohol, law enforcement agencies are still unsure what exactly is the best way to test someone for weed on the road. Scientists are going to continue working out ways to see at what THC level it becomes unsafe for someone to drive a vehicle.
What is the Punishment?
In some states, it is already a punishable offense to have any THC in your system at all while driving. It doesn’t matter what the driver or the officer says, if it can be determined that the individual had THC in their system while they were driving, then they can be punished for driving under the influence. If it is determined that the individual was under the influence of marijuana while driving, they can be punished with fines, imprisonment, home confinement, license suspension, vehicle impoundment, drug abuse classes, probation, and community service among other potential penalties.
While this may be startling news for people out there who have been driving under the influence of marijuana for years with no penalty, it ultimately will lead to people using marijuana more safely. That doesn’t only mean for the person using the drug, it means that the road in general is going to become more safe for everyone who is on it. Even though many people claim to drive better under the influence of marijuana, there is no doubt that it affects reaction times and deci