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Spit test could tag stoned motorists

Law enforcement officials in Texas and elsewhere across the country could soon be using a saliva test in order to identify motorists who drive under the influence of marijuana. The test, which is under development at Stanford University, is the first practical equivalent to the roadside breath test that is commonly used to identify alcohol intoxication in drivers who are believed to be drunk while behind the wheel.

Unlike THC screening tests that analyze blood and urine samples in a laboratory setting, the test has the capability to measure THC concentrations in saliva using a mobile device that can be deployed in the field. Headed by a professor of electrical engineering and of material science and engineering, the research team that created the portable potalyzer test focused on saliva because THC concentration found there may more reliably correlate with impairment than the psychoactive agent found in other body fluids and because the collection of saliva is considered to be a less invasive procedure.

Administration of the test during a traffic stop requires an officer to collect a saliva sample on a cotton swab and place it on a disposable chip cartridge. After inserting the chip into a hand-held reader, results are available in a little as three minutes.

The Potalyzer will not be officially ready for use until it has been subjected to field tests and been approved by regulators. In the meantime, Texas motorists who find themselves facing an impaired driving charge in connection with alleged marijuana intoxication may find it beneficial to seek legal counsel. Following a case evaluation, a criminal defense attorney may be able to identify violations of police protocols or other deficiencies in the prosecution's evidence that could ultimately lead to a dismissal of the case.

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