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Driver impairment tests for marijuana may be flawed

As legalization of marijuana for recreational or medical use spreads to an increasing number of states, Texas authorities could find themselves faced with the potential need to evaluate individuals from those states for marijuana impairment at times. However, testing methods in some of the states with legalized marijuana use are viewed as questionable by AAA. Although blood alcohol testing is an effective indicator of impairment for those who are stopped for drinking and driving, testing the blood for THC may not give an accurate reading of the level of impairment experienced by a driver.

THC level is just one facet of impairment testing related to marijuana use. Additional issues to evaluate include pupil dilation and behavior of the driver. An exact THC level for impairment has not been determined, and THC can metabolize quickly or remain in the blood stream for a long time based on factors such as the extent of prior marijuana use. In fact, the time needed for active THC to leave the bloodstream could be so minimal in certain cases that blood testing delays could produce results that do not reflect the driver's condition at the time of a traffic stop.

Those who use marijuana frequently for issues such as medical needs may reflect high levels of THC without being impaired. As medical use legislation and ballot measures are considered in more states, authorities need to be prepared for accurately evaluating a driver's status without solely relying on blood testing.

An individual who faces a criminal charge for impaired driving in a situation involving questionable testing equipment or methods might benefit from the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer. There could be problems with subjective tests such as reflex evaluation used by officials in the field. There could also be problems with the management of a blood sample between collection and testing.

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R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
1545 Heights Blvd. Suite 600
Houston, TX 77008

Phone: 713-752-2728 | Fax: 713-650-1602
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