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New device may measure marijuana intoxication

Kentucky residents may want to know that researchers have created a device that can test whether a driver is impaired from cannabis. While law enforcement agencies have tests that can determine the level of THC, the key ingredient in marijuana, there is currently no approved test that can gauge a user's degree of marijuana intoxication.

The potalyzer device, created by researchers at Stanford University, can detect THC in an individual's saliva as well as the concentration level of the component. The researchers say that using a person's saliva to determine THC levels is less invasive than other forms of testing and may have a stronger connection to impairment than THC found in blood or urine. After collecting a cotton swab of saliva from an individual, magnetic biosensors are used to locate any THC molecules. Within three minutes, the results of the test can be obtained from a laptop or smartphone.

Even though there is no general agreement as to what THC measurements in the body causes impairment, studies have supported a range of 2 to 25 nanograms per milliliter of saliva. The device is able to detect THC concentrations that fall in the range of 0 to 50 nanograms per milliliter of saliva. However, before the test can be approved, states will need to set limits of how much THC can be present in a driver's saliva.

If a driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated because of marijuana, a criminal law attorney may be able to demonstrate that the presence of THC in the body does not always correlate to impairment. A lawyer could also negotiate a plea bargain if it is not possible to get the charges dropped.

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