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THC measurement may result in breathalyzer for marijuana

Drivers in Connecticut and the rest of the nation are prohibited from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. However, law enforcement officials require a device that can produce reliable results when testing for marijuana intoxication.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have been able to measure the vapor pressure of the primary active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, THC. Because of the chemical structure of the compound, obtaining its vapor pressure measurement is an extremely complicated task that had not been successfully completed before.

Vapor pressure details what occurs to a compound when it turns into a gas from a liquid. This is a process that occurs in a person's lung when molecules in the blood are breathed out of the body during an exhale. In order to use breath to obtain accurate measures of the levels of certain chemical compounds in the blood, it is necessary to know the compound's vapor pressure.

In an article that was released about the research, the agency states that the researchers are not developing a breathalyzer but are providing the technical information needed by manufacturers to design devices that can provide accurate measurements of THC in a person's breath. Although the research is significant, additional studies are necessary to determine how levels of THC in the breath correspond to blood levels of the compound. Further research is also needed to pinpoint the blood levels of THC at which a person should not be driving. Individuals who have been charged with offenses related to drunk driving should contact a criminal law attorney. The attorney may examine the validity of any roadside testing that was conducted and whether a client's rights were violated during a traffic stop.

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