Pot Breathalyzers May Come if California Legalizes Marijuana

By George Kiriyama
|  Thursday, Oct 24, 2013  |  Updated 12:59 PM PDT
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Roadside marijuana tests may be on the way if California decides to legalize marijuana. George Kiriyama reports.

Roadside marijuana tests may be on the way if California decides to legalize marijuana. George Kiriyama reports.

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You see officers giving breathalyzer tests for alcohol at DUI checkpoints all the time. How about roadside breath testing for marijuana for those who are "DWS" (Driving While Stoned)?

It could happen if California legalizes cannabis.

Gabriel Reeves, the executive Chef at the Elemental Wellness Center in San Jose, says more research needs to be done before a marijuana breathalyzer test hits the market.

"It won't be as effective in determining inebriation with cannabis, because they are varying modes of consumption that will not be able to be...that won't show up on the type of breathalyzer test that they're designing currently," Reeves said.

The state of California would have to have a legal limit on the books for marijuana before a breathalyzer test is administered.

In the state of Washington, one of two states (the other being Colorado) where marijuana is allowed, it's legal to possess an ounce of marijuana but illegal for that same person to drive if his or her THC content reaches five nanograms per mililiter of blood. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Reeves said it's unfair to have a hard standard legal limit like the one in Washington.

"I don't feel that that sort of a limit has been established as scientifically accurate or something that would able to be standardized across the medical cannabis industry for each patient. Because each patient, each patient's needs, vary with the amount of milligrams of THC that they need to alleviate their symptoms," Reeves said.

If marijuana is legalized in California, law enforcement will be looking to lawmakers for guidance on what the limit should be.

"That would be up to the legislature based on scientific research that they would have to take into consideration to determine is there a base level in a person's breath under the influence of marijuana that would warrant a driving under the influence conviction," said Capt. Dave Pitts, Sunnyvale DPS spokesperson.
 
Pitts said it's possible someone could be a regular marijuana user, have a THC level in his or her bloodstream above the limit, and not get pulled over because they are driving normally.

"Like the laws already on the books with alcohol and/or drugs driving under the influence, the officers still need to show that the person was impaired while they were driving," Pitts said.

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