Marijuana Breathalyzer

One listener wants to know whether there are tests like breathalyzers for drivers who’ve used marijuana. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

Lee wrote in to ask whether there’s a way to measure how much marijuana is in a driver’s system. Lee, this is a question that experts are really grappling with. The problem is current tests aren’t very accurate because the tests don’t really show who’s impaired: they measure THC levels, the psychoactive compound, but people who don’t regularly use marijuana might be impaired even though their blood might not show it and regular users might show the presence of THC, even though they’re not impaired. 

And it’s scary not to know who is impaired: the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Washington State who tested positive for marijuana doubled after the state legalized it. For now, police conduct field sobriety tests to see if drivers are demonstrating impairment, but of course the best way to prevent impaired driving is to ask drivers never, ever to drive if they are high.

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