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The idea of a cannabis breathalyzer often makes cannabis users terrified or angry. Many will immediately point to the fact that different users have different tolerances. The amount of cannabis that might make one person impaired might be a baseline dose for another. There is no medically or scientifically accepted standard cutoff dose for impairment when it comes to cannabis.
Another serious concern is the fact that existing testing systems don’t accurately measure impairment. Instead, they simply indicate if someone has used cannabis within the recent past. For heavy users, depending on the test involved, positive results are possible even weeks after the last time someone used cannabis. Clearly, that is very problematic for anyone who uses cannabis and still drives a vehicle, even if they never drive while under the influence.
That’s why a roadside testing system that detects active THC in your breath could be beneficial to cannabis users everywhere. Typically speaking, THC in your breath dissipates within a few hours of consuming cannabis. In other words, it tends to decrease as the effects of cannabis use decreases.
Some cannabis activists firmly believe that a cannabis breath test is not necessary. They may claim that cannabis does not impair anyone who uses it, which is not necessarily true. There is also the fact that most crashes involving cannabis also involve other controlled substances or alcohol. Cannabis alone isn’t a leading cause of collisions. Cannabis could impact driving in many cases, specially with young drivers or those unfamiliar with how cannabis impacts their bodies.
Of course, there are also concerns about potential abuses of such a testing unit. Law enforcement might intentionally target people who are not driving in an impaired manner but have a known relationship to the cannabis community. Much like with chemical test for alcohol, improper calibration or administration of a test could result in false positives and lead to unnecessary and unjust prosecution.
However, there is some reason to believe that the development of a THC breath test could actually benefit the cannabis community. First of all, such a test would provide accurate statistics related to THC consumption and impaired driving. That could help debunk the prohibitionist claim that cannabis alone results in more crashes. It could also protect those who use cannabis infrequently from failing a chemical test of their urine, saliva, or hair. These tests may show positive results for cannabis use for long periods past when impairment ends.
Now that a company out of California claims to have developed a testing unit that accurately detects active THC in the breath, changes may soon be coming to impairment-related traffic stops. Hound Labs asserts that it has discovered a way to only show THC positive test results during a roughly two window hour of impairment after consumption. It remains to be seen if the test actually does what they claim.
If it does, cannabis users in legal states may soon have more accurate test results related to impaired driving charges. It remains to be seen whether the net impact of such a device will be positive or negative for the community. However, when one considers the inaccuracies and large period of time in which cannabis tests currently come back positive, it could be that such a testing unit, if it actually works, could protect people from wrongful prosecution over responsible cannabis use.
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