Why Is There No Marijuana Breathalyzer?

Seventy-one percent of voters in Florida approved Amendment 2 in the November 2016 election expanding medical marijuana access for patients suffering from a range of debilitating conditions. Shortly afterward, the city of Orlando decriminalized small amounts of marijuana by allowing police officers to issue citations instead of arresting people for possessing under 20 grams. As Florida’s marijuana laws continue to change, you may be wondering, “is there a breathalyzer for weed?” As of right now, the answer is “no.”

Orlando Marijuana DUI Charges

As society gradually increases its acceptance of marijuana, it’s easy to forget that driving under the influence of marijuana is a punishable offense. A marijuana DUI charge in Orlando mirrors that of a regular DUI in that you could face fines of up to $1,000, a jail sentence of up to six months, probation, mandated community service and DUI school, and more.

Several states currently permit medical and recreational applications of marijuana. Law enforcement officers in California, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon would like a practical way to take out the guesswork of booking someone for a pot DUI; yet their dreams remain on hold. The science behind a marijuana breath test is much more complex than the science behind an alcohol breath test.

Can Orlando Police Measure Marijuana Impairment?

Due to several factors, it is currently impossible to gauge a person’s level of impairment by simply measuring how much THC is in his system. Determining this is much more difficult than concluding whether a person is drunk.

How THC Differs from Alcohol When Issuing a DUI

THC is the main active ingredient in cannabis. The level of THC in a person’s blood spikes and then subsides just a few hours after a person smokes or eats a marijuana-infused product. While TCH flows through the bloodstream, it can cause a person to have delayed reactions, misperceive space and time, and become easily distracted. Some federal statistics indicate that experiencing these effects, collectively known as being “high,” may increase a driver’s accident risk.

THC affects a person’s body and brain much differently than alcohol. Ethanol — the chemical in alcohol that slows reflexes — is made up of small, water-soluble particles. Ethanol is quickly distributed through the human body because it is mostly made of water, and clears within a few hours. Unlike ethanol, THC dissolves much more slowly in fat deposits. It can slowly enter the bloodstream for up to two days after a person smokes. Several factors may influence the chemical effects of THC on a person’s cognitive faculties. Among these are a person’s sex, their percentage of body fat, their frequency of use, the method they use to consume cannabis and the type of cannabis product they consume.

There is no scientific data which correlates the presence of THC with impairment. While some states have set a limit on how much THC a person can have in their body to qualify for a marijuana DUI, this method is unscientific as user tolerance varies widely. A regular marijuana smoker, for example, could show zero signs of impairment with five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in their system. In Washington State, five nanograms/ milliliter of blood is the marijuana version of the 0.08% threshold for an alcohol DUI. On the other hand, a person who does not smoke often or has just tried marijuana for the first time could absolutely become impaired by a small amount of THC.

In addition to the genuine issue of tolerance, THC is hard to detect from a breath sample. The chemical quickly degrades, and the concentration is millions to billions of times less than that of alcohol. All these factors create significant roadblocks to developing a straight-forward roadside marijuana breathalyzer test.

Today, Orlando law enforcement officers rely on educated guesswork to determine a person’s level of impairment. If you are stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence, you could be subjected to an array of field sobriety tests to gauge your driving abilities.

Seasoned Orlando DUI Defense Attorneys

After any DUI stop, it’s important to touch base with a knowledgeable attorney who can protect your rights. At The Umansky Law Firm, founder William Umansky and his team work tirelessly to defend clients throughout Central Florida. They are respected for going above and beyond researching all factors of the case to construct a solid defense for marijuana DUI.

Attorney Bradford Fisher served as the DUI specialist for the State Attorney’s Office before joining The Umansky Law Firm and can use his experience to your benefit. Speak with an attorney about your case when you call 407-228-3838 today for a free case evaluation.