'Cannibuster' Will Tell Cops in Minutes if You are High Behind Wheel

With the movement to legalize (or at the least, decriminalize) marijuana in the United States in full swing, this Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney has long said: The legal community -myself included – needs to be prepared for a drastic increase in pot-related DUI cases.

I wrote a few months back about a marijuana breath test that is in development – and in demand by law enforcement officials across the country.

But now there is news of another bit of technology that police hope will help them more quickly and efficiently determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana.

Currently, law enforcement officials must rely on blood or urine tests to determine the level of THC (the chemical in weed that is responsible for most of the drug’s psychological effects) in a driver’s system. The problem? The time it takes to get results back from the lab – it could take weeks, and that’s if said lab isn’t in the weeds (no pun intended).

Not so with what is being called the Cannibuster.

The brainchild of Kathleen Stitzlein, a graduate student at the University of Akron, and a few others, the Cannibuster is basically a device that measures the amount of THC in the system through a sample of saliva and can give an officer a reading in mere minutes.

The problem this Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney has with the whole concept is this: Reliability. A DUI – whether the alleged intoxicant is alcohol, marijuana or another drug – is nothing to joke about. There are serious consequences, not the least of which could be a license suspension or even jail time.

So, if a cop is gonna charge someone, it’s my position that they need to be sure.

Yet, Breathalyzers testing for alcohol are notoriously inaccurate – and they’ve been around since 1954. So, I’m not sold on the concept that the Cannibuster will immediately be reliable enough to be used on a widespread scale.

Here’s another reason why: The technology must be purchased by local law enforcement departments, which means those communities will need to dedicate significant funds to purchase the technology – or rely on grant money to make the purchases.

Regardless, drivers, marijuana advocates and Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney like me who handle a huge volume of DUI cases should keep the Cannibuster on their radar.

I know I am.

Update: August 31, 2017

Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law on April 17, 2016. Full implementation is expected no later than April 2018.

Applications were opened to medical marijuana growers, producers, and dispensaries this past January. The Department of Health has created a set of temporary regulations to guide everyone involved in the process. MJ Freeman was given a contract for tracking the marijuana from the pre-planting stage to the final sale stage. Doctors have been able to add themselves to the Department’s Physician Registry since July 26th. This is the first step they must take to participate in the program.

As of this date, 27 dispensaries and 12 growers/producers are permitted to take part. A Medical Marijuana Physician’s Workgroup has been created. This is the website where potential participants in the program can go to complete the application process.

If you are under a doctor’s care and being treated for a serious condition, you may qualify to receive medical marijuana as a form of treatment.

Source: Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Program

Update March 31, 2019

The inventor of the Cannibuster is still working on a prototype of the device. She has received several grants and matching funds in the four years since she first proposed it, developed as part of her PhD project in biomedical engineering. Her long-term goals are to make the Cannibuster available for home use, but for now, she’s focusing on law enforcement use. She has heard from sheriffs and police departments across Ohio who are interested in the device. Her next step, once she defends her dissertation and the prototype is completed, will be clinical trials. I hope she does a thorough job of testing, because I still have concerns about reliability.

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