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Impaired pot-smoking drivers could be snared by breath test under development


SEATTLE – Now that pot is legal in a number of states, impaired weed smokers climbing behind the wheel may become more commonplace, prompting a university to lead the way on the development of a breath test to detect intoxication.

A Washington State University research project could yield the first breath test to help law enforcement officers catch drivers who have toked one puff too many. The breath alcohol test is already widely-used, helping to convict thousands each year of operating while under the influence of alcohol and strip those offenders of their driving privileges. A test for marijuana would aid officers and prosecutors in keeping problem drivers off the road.

WSU chemistry professor Herbert Hill told the News Tribune in Seattle that “existing technologies — including those already used by airport security and customs agents to detect drugs and explosives — can be re-purposed to test breath for THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.”

Professor Hill said tests on humans could start next year. Currently, blood tests have to be used to detect the drug, and most times, a court order is needed to conduct those tests.

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