Although driving while drugging is illegal in every state in the nation, measuring the level of impairment caused by drug use is a complicated endeavor. Unlike the routine field testing tactics practiced for alcohol intoxication during a stop, law enforcement agencies and researchers have yet to devise uniform regulations that dictate guidelines on when to test and what types of drugs are screened in the process. These tests have only been administered purely based on suspicion.
Studies show that one particular drug, known as marijuana, has been a main culprit in impaired drivers. It contains THC, a chemical that generates euphoric feelings when consumed, which is directly linked to impaired driving ability. Marijuana has been found in the blood of many drivers who have been involved in vehicle collisions. According to an article by CNN, the drug accounted for 35% of positive impairment substance tests recorded, making it a major contributor in automobile collisions with injuries and fatalities. Currently, there are no field tests that are comparable to screenings such as breathalyzers, that would measure drug impairment.
However, scientists at Washington State University are taking the first steps in an effort to alleviate this issue. In a report addressed to the public, the researchers who reside in Pullman, Washington, are asking local residents to help them create a breathalyzer that will be able to detect and measure recent cannabis consumption.
Willing participants are required to follow a series of instructions in order to contribute to the study. They will also be paid for their efforts. First, they will have to take a survey answering questions about food and drinks they've consumed, and then they will have to give sample blood, breath and oral tests to participate. Volunteers will then be asked to purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor and smoke it in a private residence (in accordance with Washington law) until they feel like they are high. After that, they will have to return to the hospital by taxi to provide additional samples. From then on, volunteers can choose whether or not they would like to participate in the optional part of the study, which would require them to interact with law enforcement officers for a standard field sobriety test. Researchers are not allowed to have any contact with the substance and it cannot come on the WSU campus. If authorities find that these rules are violated, the school could lose funding for the study.
Lead researcher and WSU professor, Nicholas Lovrich, got the idea to develop a marijuana breathalyzer in 2010. He says that the rising trend of drug-impaired drivers in Washington inspired him to create the mechanism. He says that if his efforts are successful, he hopes that the university will focus on investing in future innovation in medicine. Lovrich hopes that the possibility of a marijuana breathalyzer fuels conversations about this subject.
“Wow, that's a pretty good investment. Maybe we should keep investing in medicines and then tools that people need for workplace and school and roadside safety.”
If you have been apprehended for a DUI, you should immediately consult with an experienced attorney. Call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online for a consultation.
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