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New Device Purports to Measure Level of Marijuana Intoxication

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With more and more states legalizing marijuana for either medicinal or recreational use, law enforcement have become increasingly concerned with being able to determine whether or not a driver is intoxicated by marijuana. Researchers at Stanford University have developed a device that they claim can quickly and unobtrusively measure the amount of marijuana’s active ingredients in a roadside test, usable by law enforcement officers.

The most powerful chemical in marijuana, THC, is typically measured via blood or urine tests. If an officer pulls over a driver and believes that person is high, they need to arrest the driver and bring them to the station to subject them to a chemical test. This could involve hours of stress and inconvenience for a driver who wasn’t driving while high. Enter the “Potalyzer.” The portable device uses nanotechnology to analyze a subject’s saliva for the presence of THC, as well as its concentration. The test takes about three minutes to complete. 

Currently, law enforcement uses evidence such as bloodshot eyes, behavior indicating intoxication, or detecting the scent of marijuana from a driver to arrive at the conclusion that the driver is intoxicated. However, this evidence is all very subjective and is not exclusively evidence of a driver’s intoxication. For example, their passenger may have smoked marijuana or been around someone who did, resulting in the smell lingering on their clothing, and any number of conditions can cause someone’s eyes to become bloodshot or speech to seem slurred.

On the one hand, a test that uses an objective measure of a driver’s intoxication level could be preferable to a subjective interpretation by an officer that a driver is intoxicated. On the other, using THC levels to prove intoxication may not be conclusive. One of the biggest problems with a device that measures THC in a driver’s blood is that, unlike alcohol, experts often disagree about what amount of THC should make someone qualify as intoxicated. Currently, Kentucky has no set level above which a driver will be considered intoxicated, making it possible that law enforcement could claim that a driver was intoxicated if tests revealed the presence of any THC.

If you’ve been arrested in Kentucky for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hire an attorney who will aggressively defend your rights before the court. Contact the Louisville criminal defense lawyer Ron Aslam for a consultation, at 502-581-1676.