Potential New “Breathalyzer” That Can Detect Marijuana Use While Driving

Man driving and smoking joint

Stanford University recently announced that they have successfully developed a device to measure the amount of marijuana in a person’s body. Unlike a traditional breathalyzer, which can measure the amount of alcohol in your breath to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC), the new device called a “potalyzer” can measure the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in your saliva. Although this is not yet being used by law enforcement in New Jersey, it is extremely important because it means that police may soon have a scientific way of testing to see if you have been driving under the influence of drugs like marijuana simply and quickly. The timeline for implementing this or another similar test may move very quickly, because it is possible that lawmakers will consider legalizing small quantities of marijuana for medicinal or even recreational use in the future.

Developed by Dr. Shan Wang of Stanford University and his team, the potalyzer uses magnetic biosensors to detect THC molecules in saliva. Reports indicate that the new tool is accurate enough to detect as little as 0 to 50 nanograms of THC per milliliter of spit. This is big news, especially for states where marijuana use has been legalized. While those states continue to have DUI/DWI laws outlawing driving while impaired (this includes via marijuana use), up until now, law enforcement have had difficulty prosecuting such a crime, because they could not prove when or how much marijuana someone has consumed. Unlike alcohol, THC (marijuana’s main psychoactive component) remains in one’s blood much longer than alcohol, meaning you could still test positive for marijuana use even if the marijuana is no longer affecting your ability to drive.

For states like New Jersey, where marijuana laws are much stricter, the new potalyzer could actually increase the likelihood that marijuana will be legalized for additional uses, because the inability to enforce marijuana DUI laws will be less of an issue. Now, by being able to measure THC levels, not just its presence, science can begin to correlate certain levels with driver impairment and then create impairment standards. This is essentially like BAC laws that exist for alcohol, but based on the amount of marijuana in a person’s saliva.

Like the breathalyzer, the potalyzer may also prove popular because it does not require taking a blood sample or involve other extremely invasive measures. The test involves mixing some of a driver’s saliva with antibodies that bind to the THC molecules and act as markers. The sample is then spread on a test strip that’s been pre-coated in THC and loaded into a handheld measuring device, to determine how much unbound THC remains. By doing this, the system can accurately estimate how much THC was present in the driver’s saliva, and the results can be displayed quickly.

Interestingly, researchers suggest that this new technology can also reportedly be applied to almost any small molecule including morphine, heroin, methamphetamine or any number of controlled dangerous substances. Because many drugs are used by smoking or inhaling, this new technology could lead to a number of quick, saliva-based drug tests in the future that will affect how driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) laws are enforced.

The Need for an Experienced DWI / DUI Attorney

Obviously, before this test is implemented anywhere, further research will be needed to see how a driver’s tolerance impacts his or her ability to handle different amounts of THC to determine specific legal limits. With this new device, however, it will likely come sooner rather than later. Regardless of whether or when this device is implemented, New Jersey law still holds that if you have used a substance that would change your normal physical coordination or mental abilities to the point that you can be considered a danger to yourself or others on the road, then you may be charged with DUID. The consequences of driving under the influence of drugs are very serious and can include fines, loss of driving privileges, or even jail time.

Because DUID laws are always changing, a DUI attorney will be able to take the time, sit down with you and review your case, and explain what consequences you are facing in your specific situation. If you go to court, an experienced lawyer can help argue on your behalf to get you the best result possible.

New Jersey DUID Attorney Edward M. Janzekovich Can Explain and Fight for Your Rights

Because defending against charges of driving under the influence of drugs can be very complicated, it is important to get an experienced DUI/DWI attorney in any situation where you or someone you know is charged. If you are charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in New Jersey, an experienced DWI/DUI attorney can make all the difference. To speak with an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer about your situation, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout the state of New Jersey.