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Drug Charges

Will pot breathalyzers work?

By November 26, 2019January 31st, 2024No Comments

Medical marijuana has been a reality for thousands of Oklahomans since voters approved one of the most progessive medical marijuana laws in the nation in 2018. In Oklahoma, if you have a medical marijuana license, you can legally possess: 

  • Up to three ounces of marijuana on your person
  • Six marijuana plants
  • Six seeding plants
  • One ounce of concentrated marijuana
  • 72 ounces of edible marijuana
  • Up to eight ounces of marijuana at home

With so many people able to legally consume and possess medical marijuana, law enforcement agencies across the state are scrambling to find a way to bust people for driving under the influence of pot. 

Alcohol can be detected in a traffic stop if the suspected impaired driver blows into a breathalyzer, but even breathalyzers can prove faulty. Marijuana is more complicated. 

Without a breathalyzer or some other way to measure marijuana levels during a traffic stop, police have to rely on urine, blood or hair samples. None of those testing methods are an accurate measure of driving under the influence, because they can only tell you if there’s THC in your system. They can’t prove that you have consumed marijuana right before or while you were driving.

In Michigan, a medical marijuana user was acquitted of a DUI after a judge found that the trace amounts of THC found in a blood test weren’t enough to impair his ability to drive.  

Companies and research institutions are quickly coming up with their own versions of pot breathalyzers, but how would they work? And how will law enforcement and judges determine how much THC constitutes driving under the influence? 

Marijuana has many different forms and affects people in many different ways. Unlike alcohol impairment, which is measured by a .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), there’s no set number on THC levels that police and courts use to charge you with DUI. In California, it’s been found that many marijuana users are able to pass field sobriety tests when pulled over for suspicion of driving while high. 

At the University of Pittsburgh, researchers have developed a marijuana breathalyzer that would identify THC molecules in your breath. Scientists are also looking at ways to find marijuana in your saliva. 

Because the products are still being tested, it’s not clear how — or if — they’ll work on the streets. It’s worth noting that pot breathalyzers wouldn’t be able to detect marijuana edibles, creating a large loophole for medical marijuana users who don’t inhale. But the biggest legal question to be answered in coming months and years — as marijuana laws become more lax and more and more states are approving recreational use — will be how much THC constitutes driving impaired. 

Do you have a court case involving marijuana in Oklahoma? Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today for a consultation.