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How Do Police Test Marijuana Impairment Behind the Wheel?

With the passage of Amendment 2 providing medical patients access to marijuana to treat certain chronic conditions, it follows that more people will be using marijuana legally in Florida. The number of people using marijuana who are also driving will naturally rise as the number of marijuana users grows. People who use marijuana, whether as a treatment or for recreation, may wonder how police can detect a user's impairment behind the wheel? The answer is more complicated than it seems.

Detecting Marijuana Impairment

Unlike alcohol, there is no "breathalyzer" test for marijuana impairment. The main component of marijuana that creates the "high" is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This is a fat-soluble compound that acts much differently from alcohol once it enters a person's system. THC does not peak when a person is high, and it can stay in the system for days or weeks. When a person smokes, some THC may be released into his bloodstream over the next few hours, but the drug's effects can linger past that.

People who regularly smoke marijuana have THC built up in their bloodstreams. If we were to enact legislation to set a limit on how much THC can be in a person's system to be considered under the influence legally, many people who may not have even smoked for days or weeks might be wrongfully arrested. On the flip side, there are many ways to ingest marijuana and get high without THC going into the bloodstream. One of these is through edibles like pot brownies.

Despite the fact that several states have enacted a 5-nanogram of THC threshold for marijuana DUIs (the equivalent of the 0.08% BAC for alcohol DUIs) and had poor results, some Florida lawmakers wish to do the same. Such arbitrary limits on marijuana consumption are impossible to monitor and do nothing to improve road safety.

How Do Florida Police Officers Test for Marijuana?

So, just how do states determine whether a driver is under the influence of pot? Florida is behind on the times. Law enforcement officers throughout Florida continue to rely on chemical tests and officer judgment. In California, officers are using a new mouth-swab test to detect seven types of substances that can cause impairment (marijuana, cocaine, opiates, methamphetamine, amphetamine, methadone, benzodiazepines). The test confirms the presence of these drugs in a driver's system.

To use the Drager DrugTest 5000, the driver must insert a swab and run it around the inside of his mouth for up to four minutes. The swab is placed into the device which then prints a result. Though the driver will still be subjected to a blood test if the machine produces a positive result or if the officer still suspects impairment, it will only detect the active THC compound responsible for creating the high.

Traditional chemical tests such as blood and urine tests do not accurately represent the extent of a person's intoxication if they are high on marijuana. If police have arrested you for a marijuana DUI in Orlando, you need to work with a competent lawyer who understands these complex cases. Attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm strive to protect your constitutional rights at each step of the judicial process. Call 407-228-3838, chat with us on our website, or reach out to us to set an appointment for a free case review

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