As more people turn to medical marijuana edibles to help alleviate symptoms from their physical and/or emotional illnesses, the law enforcement community is working on figuring out a way to check if someone is impaired while driving.
When someone has been consuming alcohol, police can easily use breathalyzers to check their blood alcohol level and determine if they’re unsafe to be on the road. But do medical marijuana edibles show up on breathalyzers? The answer to that is a little complicated, so keep reading for more information!
Can a breathalyzer test detect that you’ve eaten marijuana edibles?
At this time, there is no commonly used breathalyzer test that can detect if you’ve consumed marijuana in any form. Blood alcohol levels can be determined through breathing into a breathalyzer machine, but testing for marijuana (whether ingested by smoking or by eating) can only be measured by blood, urine, or hair samples. These tests also only indicate whether someone has THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana) in their system, not whether they’re actually impaired or unable to operate a vehicle safely.
Because law enforcement would like a way to figure out in the field whether someone is intoxicated from marijuana, several different entities have been developing and testing new products that would work on this issue. A startup in California and a Canadian firm have both been working on developing a product that could test for cannabis using a breathalyzer-type product.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have also begun studies with a device that shows results on a digital display after the person blows into it. The breath sends the air over carbon nanotubes that help identify THC molecules. However, the device is still being tested and hasn’t been used in a widespread manner yet. Scientists are also considering testing roadside saliva tests for THC, but currently there isn’t anything ready for law enforcement to use.
What are the loopholes of testing with breathalyzer-type devices?
Let’s say that one of these products is developed effectively and can be implemented by law enforcement. They might be able to test for marijuana usage with a device that’s similar to the breathalyzer. But then there’s the question: do THC breathalyzers work for edibles?
Right now, the devices being tested are only able to show whether a person has smoked marijuana. Edibles wouldn’t even show up, and would likely allow a person to pass a roadside test. Additionally, individuals who have been pulled over by law enforcement and asked to perform a field sobriety test are often able to easily pass even if they’ve consumed marijuana. This indicates that these tests as they stand aren’t enough to measure whether someone is actually impaired or not.
Lawmakers are still trying to determine the best way to prosecute someone who has caused an accident or injury because of being impaired by marijuana usage. Many cases don’t go forward or lose in court because it’s so difficult to prove with THC levels whether someone was unable to drive safely. It seems like everyone from law enforcement to prosecutors will have to figure out a different way of testing for THC than they do for alcohol intoxication; the two can’t even really be compared in this way.
Should you be driving after consuming edibles?
Even if you’re using your MMJ edibles because they were prescribed by a doctor, you still could be affected by the THC and lose some of your concentration or have slower reflexes. Because of this, it’s recommended that you don’t consume edibles and immediately get behind the wheel of a car. However, it is tricky to determine when you’d be safe to drive again, because how long an edible stays in your system can vary greatly depending on the dose and type of edible and your body’s own chemistry and metabolism.
There hasn’t been a lot of research around this topic; some say that an edible can stay in your system (meaning you can feel its effects) anywhere from two hours to 24 hours. It’s important to note that the THC from a cannabis edible can actually stay in your blood, urine, or saliva between 24 hours and three months! So, when it comes to marijuana edibles and driving safety, you really have to be the judge of whether you’re safe to drive or not.
How can you be a safe driver when using MMJ edibles?
The first thing you can do is experiment with the doses and types of edibles you’re using to see when you stop feeling the effects of them. Trying out different varieties can allow you to determine which product still gives you relief from your symptoms but also doesn’t stay too long in your system.
You should wait to consume your MMJ edibles if you know you’ll be needing to get behind the wheel fairly soon. Always avoid driving if you feel impaired in any way. If you can’t wait to use your edibles, try out some alternative forms of transportation, such as getting a ride from a friend or family member or calling an Uber or Lyft.
The most important thing to remember is that your usage of edibles (even if it’s for medical purposes) can always be used against you if you’re pulled over for a ticket or if you cause an accident. You don’t want to break the law or cause harm to property or people, because if they decide to test your blood, urine, or saliva at the police station, you could have THC in your system and law enforcement can use this to try to show you were impaired.
Bottom line: there’s no roadside breathalyzer at this point in time that can easily show that you’ve used marijuana edibles. But you’ll still want to make sure you’re being as cautious as possible anytime you use MMJ products and then get behind the wheel. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!