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New tech aims for greater accuracy in drug-impaired driving cases

Here's a story readily significant in California and all other states, especially for drivers who occasionally smoke marijuana and then get behind the wheel.

 A couple years ago, and to prove a point, a Colorado reporter focusing on pot-related stories smoked some marijuana. He then went to bed for the night. The next day, after a 15-hour period following his marijuana ingestion, he took a blood test that is geared toward detection of the psychoactive ingredient THC, which is the high-producing agent in marijuana.

 The results? The test showed that his blood contained THC at a limit three times higher than that allowed for under Colorado law. In short, and despite a peaceful night of rest and double-digit hours following any smoking activity, he would have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs had he been stopped by a policeman in traffic.

The story dramatizes what many critics say about blood testing for drugged drivers in a manner similar to what is the norm across the country for testing motorists suspected of a DUI offense.

Their chief complaint concerning the process, which is also commonly employed in California, is that blood testing for THC is simply inaccurate and can even wield wildly wrong results.

States are, figuratively, all over the map when it comes to their laws regulating marijuana use while driving. Accuracy is obviously of critical importance, given the adverse consequences that can flow from a drugged driving conviction.

In California, those closely parallel the penalties associated with drunk driving. Drugged driving is a statutory offense under state law that can result in points being assessed that raise insurance premiums and threaten driving privileges, high fines, jail time and additional exactions.

Researchers are currently working on alternative methods to blood testing for measuring THC in the body. A recent study appearing in the medical journal Clinical Chemistry discusses the promise held in a marijuana breath test that measures the ingredient.

Given the progressive decriminalization of marijuana laws across the country, it is not hard to imagine increasingly more drivers on the roads with some level of THC in their bodies. A uniform test for measuring it that is truly accurate and can be routinely applied in all states would seem to be more than a convenience.

For the sake of fairness and consistency, it might be an imperative.

Source: Huffington Post, "Marijuana breath test could offer alternative to controversial blood test for pot DUIs," Matt Ferner, Oct. 22, 2013

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