Pot Breathalyzer Is Still a Police Pipe Dream

The SensAbues marijuana breath test.<a href="http://sensabues.com/archive">SensAbues.com</a>

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As 4:20 threatens to become as popular as happy hour, police are scrambling to figure out a reliable way to make sure that the dude who’s zoning out in the Taco Bell drive-thru isn’t too stoned to drive. The problem is, roadside breathalyzer tests administered to drunks don’t work for pot smokers, forcing cops to take suspected stoners into the station for a blood test. Now the Swedish company SensAbues is offering something of a fix. A study published in the Journal of Breath Research last week found that its proprietary breath-testing device can detect recent use of a wide range of drugs, including prescription meds, cocaine, and marijuana.

“The device is based on a filter, you can actually just blow through it,” developer Olof Beck told a Swedish interviewer. “It’s very, very easy to collect the sample.”

But here’s why Beck probably isn’t going to be landing contracts with the Colorado or Washington state troopers anytime soon. First off, his device only detects the presence of marijuana, not whether a driver has consumed enough to be impaired. And even more problematic from a cop’s point of view: The filter samples have to be analyzed in a lab—which means no instant field results.

Those technical obstacles may not be insurmountable. If science can figure out how to grow weed in vehicles, then surely it can develop some kind of mobile testing center for Beck’s breathalyzer filters.

But then, there’s an even more basic question that American society has yet to answer: How high is too high to drive?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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