Barbara A. Bowden

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Marijuana breathalyzers coming soon to Washington?

Marijuana breathalyzers could be coming to Washington sometime this year, according to researchers at Washington State University. The breathalyzers would be a welcome tool for police, as recognizing individuals who are driving high can be a challenge.

What does this mean for drivers?

Not much right now. These breathalyzers will likely not be admitted or trusted for years to come. It is still important that Washington drivers know their rights under the law. In the state of Washington, a person cannot have more than 5 nanograms of THC (marijuana) per milliliter of blood to safely operate a vehicle. Currently, if an officer suspects that you are intoxicated with marijuana, they will ask you to submit to a drug recognition evaluation. Just like a field sobriety test performed when an alcohol DUI is suspected, this test is voluntary.

Police officers often look out for signs that might indicate a person is driving under the influence, such as

  • The smell of cannabis
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Speech irregularities
  • Marijuana inside the vehicle

Those who are pulled over for a marijuana DUI are typically stopped for similar reasons as alcohol DUIs. However, the body processes marijuana differently than it does alcohol. The same amount of marijuana can affect a chronic smoker and a new user very differently.

The safest thing to do is not risk operating a motor vehicle after consuming marijuana. Ask a trusted family member or friend to give you a ride, call a taxi or Uber driver, or wait to drive until you are completely sober. Knowing your limit as a marijuana user is very important. Much like a new medicine, you are advised to see how the drug will affect you before operating a vehicle.

Considering the consequences of a marijuana DUI, it’s not worth the risk of operating a vehicle impaired. A first marijuana DUI offense in Washington includes a 90 day license suspension and fines. A conviction could extend this punishment for up to four years. Of course, with more convictions come more severe penalties. A second or third conviction within seven years can yield a fine of up to $5,000 and between 30 days to one year in jail, not to mention license suspension for several years.

What does this mean for lawyers?

There is likely a long way to go before marijuana breathalyzers will be used in the legal system. After all, it took decades for alcohol breathalyzers to be trusted, and the same will likely hold true for marijuana breathalyzers. There is definitely concern that the results may not be considered valid. Blood tests will continue to be a main source of evidence in the near future. However, given the ability of THC to quickly metabolize in the blood, these tests do not accurately reflect the extent of a driver’s impairment either.

As the legalization of marijuana is relatively new, there will likely be many changes and developments in Washington marijuana law over the next few years. But for the near future, however, proving that a driver is impaired by marijuana will continue to be a difficult task for police officers.

Marijuana Law Is Complicated. We Can Help.

If you have questions about developments in Washington marijuana law, feel free to contact The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden. Our Tacoma attorneys are knowledgeable and up-to-date on marijuana law and can help answer your questions. We deal exclusively in traffic offenses to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome. With over 75 years of combined experience, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden are highly respected throughout Pierce County. Let us help you defend your rights.

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