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Cops to Get ‘Potalyzers’ for Roadside Marijuana Tests

drug testing, drug test, roadside drug test, stoned driving
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Researchers at Stanford University have developed a “potalyzer”—a device that can detect human THC levels, so cops can determine if a motorist is too impaired to drive.

The hand-held device uses sophisticated bio-sensors to detect THC molecules in saliva. Police officers will supposedly be able collect a spit sample with a cotton swab and read the results on a smartphone or laptop in just three minutes.

Using magnetic nanotechnology, a process developed to screen for cancer, the device can detect concentrations of THC in the range of 0 to 50 nanograms per milliliter of saliva. The Satnford press release on the breakthrough, attributed chiefly to lead researcher Shan Wang, states: “While there’s still no consensus on how much THC in a driver’s system is too much, previous studies have suggested a cutoff between 2 and 25 ng/mL, well within the capability of Wang’s device.”

A critical report on the development from Mashable notes that Paul Armentano, deputy director for cannabis advocacy group NORML, has expressed skepticism about the very concept of a “potalyzer.” 

“We don’t have a consensus as to what levels of THC are consistently correlated with behavioral impairment,” Armentano said.

Colorado has set THC limits for drivers—five nanograms in blood content—according to the state Transportation Department. But other states that have legalized have still no set limits. (A nanogram is a billionth of a gram.)

As Mashable notes, some have assailed the Colorado standard as arbitrary.

“Typically, if you have five nanograms in a regular smoker, you probably won’t see any behavioral effects,” Columbia University psychologist Carl Hart told the Atlantic. “Whereas, with five nanograms in someone who’s never smoked, you might see a lot of effects.”

Furthermore, the question of “marijuana-impaired driving” is widely misunderstood. A recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that high drivers are much safer than those who drive drunk. The Washington Post summarized the study thusly: “After adjusting for age, gender, race and alcohol use, drivers who tested positive for marijuana were no more likely to crash than who had not used any drugs or alcohol prior to driving.”

It may be politically taboo, but it is science. Sorry.

13 Comments

13 Comments

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    September 12, 2016 at 3:25 pm

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    Mark McCombs

    September 12, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Good device to collect information, but nearly worthless for determining impairment.

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      angie497

      September 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Exactly. I have no problem with it being used to determine whether an impaired driver has THC in their system, but I have a big problem with saying that THC in a driver’s system is automatic proof that the driver is impaired.

  3. Avatar

    Gene Tanney

    September 13, 2016 at 12:11 am

    Not to mention any mouth swab will also collect DNA from all non felons to enter into a database which normally requires consent or warrent, but hey you will never know and they will never admit.

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    Doug Ferguson

    September 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    I don’t smoke pot, don’t drink and drive, and I do not release my spit for any test. It’s a DNA thing. I guess I’m going to jail sometime, as cops everywhere are trained to think we’re all liars and guilty.

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    Joey Seay

    September 18, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Easy solution… Refuse to be tested..Its new and not promoted by law.. You cannot refuse alcohol testing by many state law but this is a completely different chemical… I feel like even a shitty court appointed lawyer could beat this one.

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    September 19, 2016 at 4:01 am

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    Joe

    September 25, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I do support the necessary research on this device. I do not want any pot head on the wheel of a vehicle. Smoke away more power to you. Stay home. Smoke and drive shut be considered DWI and shut have the same penalties that alcohol. I will feel the same in a jury to convict you of manslaughter drunk or high. I support both medical and recreational freedom responsibly.

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