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How the Police Tests Your Level of Cannabis Consumption

As the use of medical and recreational marijuana becomes more prevalent in different states and countries, the authorities are also finding better ways to enforce the responsible use of the substance. One particular aspect of the law that need the immediate attention of the police is impaired driving. On that end, how do the police find out if you’ve used cannabis or are under its influence while driving?

Lab Tests

Is there a foolproof lab test that can determine if a person has used marijuana prior to driving? The short answer is no, there is not. Compared to alcohol consumption, which can be tested using a breathalyzer, cannabis use is trickier to detect. A research paper published on CellPress in 2017 noted that it isn’t practical to set a marijuana intoxication level that is the equivalent of a single blood alcohol content level. This is because there are many variables that affect the result of such a test, like if the person is a regular cannabis user, how marijuana was consumed, the level of THC in the product used, and the presence of alcohol and other substances in the body.

Then, there’s also the way THC affects the body. This cannabinoid can spike and leave the bloodstream within 3 hours; tests that are done, say, an hour after a traffic stop can fail to detect its presence. Despite this, THC can continue to affect one’s senses and possibly impair a person’s driving ability for 6 up to 8 hours after marijuana consumption.

Even so, government agencies are setting their sights on new tests and procedures that are especially being developed to detect cannabis use. Oral fluid tests, which involve detecting marijuana and its metabolites in saliva, is proving to be a promising tool for detecting cannabis use. Still, it will take some time before this test is widely utilized.

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Roadside Tests

Since, at present, it isn’t realistic to depend on lab results to immediately determine if a driver is under the influence of cannabis, the authorities are refining the roadside tests they use to weed out impaired drivers.

Police drug recognition experts (DREs) use a 12-step test that examines a person’s vital signs, sense of balance, and ability to concentrate before forming an opinion. Cannabis has many physiological markers, such as elevated pulse, dilated pupils, and bloodshot eyes, to name a few. At the end of the test, the authorities collect blood or urine samples from the person and use toxicology tests to confirm their opinion.

This series of tests, however, is far from perfect. There are instances where drivers, who are suffering from medical emergencies like shock or a stroke, can have symptoms that are commonly associated with intoxication or substance abuse. There are also cannabis users who do not show any physical symptoms after using the herb. 

Responsible Cannabis Use

The bottom line is cannabis consumers should exercise due diligence when using the substance. Educating one’s self is the first step in responsibly enjoying cannabis oil and all the medicinal and recreational benefits it brings. Take note that the effects of smoked or vaped cannabis kick in immediately, while it takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours after the first bite to feel the effect of edibles. Also, the effect of edibles can last up to 4 hours. It’s best to avoid using cannabis if you need to drive soon after, or to ask someone else to take the wheel for you if you’ve already used cannabis in any form. By doing so, you are taking a solid step to ensure your safety and that of the other people you are sharing the road with. 

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