New THC Marijuana Breathalyzers in Florida
The use of marijuana for medical and recreational use has become legal in many jurisdictions throughout the United States. At the same time, the public has also become more tolerant of individuals who use marijuana responsibly. Nevertheless, law enforcement officers want to target individuals who might be under the influence of marijuana while driving.
For alcohol impairment, officers are trained to look for clues of impairment such as blood-shot or watery eyes, slurred speech, and unsteadiness. These clues of impairment are much harder to find when only marijuana has been consumed. Officers are trained in conducting field sobriety exercises, although those agility exercises were developed to find impairment due to alcohol consumption only. Few officers in Florida have received the training to qualify as “drug recognition” experts or evaluators.
Prosecuting DUI cases involving alleged impairment from marijuana often relies on an officer’s subjective “opinion” without any scientific test to accurately determine the levels of THC in the system.
For all of these reasons, criminal defense attorneys throughout Florida expect that new technologies will be developed to measure THC in the breath. Eventually, the Florida Legislature will pass legislation to require a person arrested for DUI to submit to this new breath test or suffer administrative penalties.
How Does the THC Breathalyzer for Cannabis Consumption Work?
Several private companies are attempting to develop a marijuana breathalyzer that can be used by law enforcement and the workplace where intoxication by THC can be hazardous.
For law enforcement purposes, the ideal breath testing technologies would provide a durable and mobile device to help officers in the field quantify the amount of THC in a person’s system through a breath test.
Companies are trying to develop a device that will detect Tetrahydrocannabinol or “THC” in the breath. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that can cause impairment.
Marijuana Breath Testing Using High-field Ion Mobility and Mass Spectrometry
Many of these new devices use high-field ion mobility and mass spectrometry. Some of the devices being developed are designed to identify THC in ultra low ranges using FAIMS-mass spectrometer systems (FAIMS-MS). FAIMS is a type of high-field asymmetric waveform ion mobility spectrometry.
The current urine testing and saliva testing for THC is more invasive. Also, the laboratory analysis is expensive and requires expert testimony at trial. Also, recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court have found that warrants are required for blood testing while a breath test can be conducted without a warrant.
Criticism of Breath Testing for THC or Cannabis
Critics within the scientific community argue that to have any value for evidentiary purposes, the devices would need to accurately and reliably determine the recent use marijuana through the presence of THC at a level that could be quantified.
Even if THC could be quantified, unlike for alcohol consumption, actual impairment from cannabis is hard to predict and varies widely.