As marijuana use becomes more widely accepted across the United States, questions are arising in regards to whether or not new laws should be put in place, and how existing laws might change to accommodate the legalization of the drug. Now, states that have legalized marijuana use for whatever reason must come up with some answers about the extent to which marijuana will be tolerated, especially when it comes to driving.
Driving under the influence of any drug can mean serious legal consequences if you are charged and found guilty. Depending on how new laws develop, the consequences of being found guilty of driving under the influence of marijuana will likely be just as serious. As technology advances, this risk is becoming more and more real—a roadside “pot test” could be just around the corner.
The Roadside Pot Test: How Would It Work?
The roadside pot test could be a game changer for DUI arrests, and it could mean trouble for marijuana smokers, even those with medical licenses who have been granted permission from medical professionals.
All drivers are familiar with the breathalyzer—that handy device that instantly determines a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) by simply analyzing a person’s breath. The breathalyzer test completely changed the way police and drivers think about driving while intoxicated. It makes cops’ jobs easier and keeps the road safer for other drivers – at least in theory. Anyone who’s had personal dealings with breath tests knows that mistakes can still be made, but they still have their uses.
The marijuana testing device that’s currently in the works would work similarly: It would analyze a person’s saliva and test for whether or not the sample contained THC, the chemical responsible for the psychologically altering affects of marijuana.
The Problem with the Roadside Pot Test
A marijuana road test would change the way marijuana DUI charges are dealt with. Currently, if an officer suspects a driver of being under the influence of weed, the driver must be arrested, taken in to the station, and given a urine or blood test. A roadside test would make arrests easier and less time consuming.
However, there are numerous potential problems with the plans that currently exist for a roadside test, and such a test could wind up creating more problems than it would solve. How so?
The biggest potential problem with the roadside pot test is that the device likely would not be able to detect actual levels of THC present in a person’s system—instead, it would only tell officers whether or not any amount of THC was present.
This is problematic for a number of reasons. First, simply detecting the presence of THC does not necessarily mean that an individual is currently high—sometimes, traces of THC can still be detected long after the psychologically altering effects of marijuana have worn off.
Furthermore, even if it were possible for a marijuana breathalyzer to detect exact levels of THC, the results of such a test would reveal very little. Unlike with alcohol, where a BAC of .08 has been shown to lead to impairment, there is no data that correlates reckless driving to a certain amount of THC.
As the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has pointed out, there is a great deal that we do not know about the way marijuana affects a person’s driving ability. “Not only do we not have consensus on the risk associated with the presence of marijuana—we don’t have information on the crash risk for different amounts of marijuana.” Thus, quantifying levels of THC would be irrelevant.
Somewhere down the road, a marijuana road test could potentially make roads safer for drivers and passengers alike. Currently, however, the road test being developed would not be nearly accurate enough to achieve this goal.
What This Means for You
As with any DUI charges, marijuana charges can come with a variety of consequences and could potentially complicate your life in a number of ways. DUI charges could stay on your record and would be visible to potential employers or landlords. A conviction like this could get in the way of your life.
The good news, though, is that if this product were brought to the market, you would have plenty of opportunities to fight any charges that use this pot test as evidence. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to walk you through the details of contesting these charges and will walk you through everything that you need to know.
If you find yourself in legal trouble as a result of smoking or being in possession of marijuana, it is in your best interest to speak to someone who is familiar with DUI charges and Colorado law. Contact the law offices of Kimberly Diego today.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.