A marijuana breathalyser could be used by police to detect drug-drivers.
A marijuana breathalyser could be used by police to detect drug-drivers. Craig Warhurst

Drivers to be done by dope detector

RESEARCHERS from America's Washington State University are working on their second prototype of a marijuana breathalyser that could be released commercially next year.  

If commercially produced, NSW police may be able to adopt the technology which is aimed at identifying drivers impaired after smoking cannabis.  

60% success rate

Developed by Professor Herbert Hill and a team of researchers, the breathalyser had an up to 60% success rate in detecting THC in its most recent trial.  

Professor Hill and his team gave a presentation to several United States senators last week about the developing technology.  

He stressed the cannabis breathalyser would not replace a blood test which, at this stage, gives a more accurate reading.  

"Alcohol is very different from THC," Prof Hill told reporters in the US last week.  

"This will just help (law enforcement) make a better decision in the field."  

Primary challenge

Demonstrating impairment, or if is someone is high on cannabis while driving, is the primary challenge for Prof Hill and his team.  

Following successful trials, Prof Hill remains optimistic.  

"We were able to show that we can detect THC in their breath," he said.  

Currently there is a 5 nanogram limit which determines impairment if a driver has smoked cannabis.  

"I think they will argue about whether you are impaired at that level or not for some time to come," Prof Hill said.  

Pushing for accurate reading

The push for an accurate marijuana breathalyser comes after the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use in Colorado and Washington.  

Authorities are concerned that there will be more impaired drivers on the roads as more US states move to legalise cannabis.  

"So we're going to need a game changer," Prof Hill said.   

"And one of the game changers is to get people off the road that are impaired with drugs; and this will help."    



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