Flashing Police Car LightsIt had to come sooner or later. After four states and the District of Columbia approved marijuana for recreational use, drivers high on weed were bound to increase. Which begs the question: Is a pot breathalyzer coming soon?

If researchers at Washington State University (in Washington state, which approved marijuana for recreational use in 2012) have their way, the handheld pot detection device they’re developing will be used by law enforcement officials in the state in the somewhat near future.

A Definite Need

Currently, no pot breathalyzer exists. Police in all 50 states use a breathalyzer device to estimate drivers’ blood alcohol content (BAC). So a portable device to measure marijuana would definitely come in handy. Right now, if police suspect a driver is under the influence of marijuana, additional tests have to be carried out.

And in Washington, the number of stoned drivers increased dramatically since the state legalized pot for recreational use. In 2013, 25 percent of drivers tested positive for marijuana (from blood tests), compared with 18.6 percent the year before.

Still Work to be Done

The legalize pot initiative in Washington set 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood as the legal limit where a driver is considered impaired.

There’s one initial problem with the WSU device being developed. The weed sniffers that first will be available for testing won’t be able to determine the amount of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), only detect its presence.

That would make arrests a bit tricky. Not the least of which is that the amount of THC in a person’s blood that qualifies as impaired for drugged driving is fairly arbitrary. There’s no consistent or uniform standard for pot impairment as there is for the .08 BAC for alcohol.

And the Washington State Patrol insists that such a device will have to be proved effective before they’ll use it.

Growing Market for Pot Detector Devices?

Not to worry. There’s going to be a need for such a device by police across the country. WSU researchers are in the forefront of what will likely become a growing industry. They hope to begin testing the device in the field sometime during the first six months of 2015.

Wonder what law enforcement officials in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia plan to do? Come 2016, initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana are expected to be on the ballots in the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and Montana. Backers of such an initiative in Florida saw the measure narrowly defeated, and say they’ll be back in 2016 to try it again.

Looks like weed wackers (pot breathalyzers) will have plenty of use in the years to come.

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