Good Question: Can breathalyzers detect cannabis impairment?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Can breathalyzers detect cannabis impairment like they can detect alcohol impairment?

This summer, Monroe County is boosting its enforcement of ignition interlock devices, court-ordered devices that require drivers to give a breath sample to start a car. They’re used to stop people convicted of a DWI from getting behind a wheel while drunk.

Joe asks: “Will these devices be ordered on those people convicted of driving high on marijuana? Can these devices detect if someone is high on marijuana and prevent them from starting the vehicle?”

Rochester Police says the breathalyzers used for ignition interlock devices are designed to detect alcohol. Breathalyzers don’t work for cannabis.

According to top breathalyzer brand Life Safer, there is a quick way to test for cannabis in someone’s system. It’s a saliva swab and law enforcement uses it in parts of the United States and in Europe. RPD says mouth swabs are not used here in Rochester.

If an officer thinks someone is driving high, RPD has a multi-step process. First, they would most likely call in a drug recognition officer. Then, that officer would conduct field sobriety tests. If the officer still thinks someone is impaired, they would most likely do a blood test for lab confirmation.

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