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Does Roadside Marijuana Testing Exist?

Published on: September 26, 2018

Written by: Confirm BioSciences.

Marijuana legalization has inevitably encroached upon the workplace. In the case of vehicle operators, marijuana use may affect alertness and reactive decision-making. In this article, let’s look at roadside marijuana testing as a potential solution to maintaining road safety.

Roadside Marijuana Testing

  • Countries where marijuana is legal or decriminalized are developing roadside testing for marijuana use. These instruments function much like alcohol breathalyzers and are becoming commonplace in areas like California, Colorado, and Canada.
  • Statistics indicate a relationship between marijuana legalization and the rate of road accidents as a result of substance use. In the state of Colorado, drivers who are suspected of using marijuana are subject to roadside marijuana testing with a blood sample. Drivers may refuse the test, leading to the automatic revocation of their privilege to drive.
  • On the other hand, California implements a 12-step roadside evaluation process. This includes similar procedures for alcohol testing such as the following:
  • Walking in a straight line
  • Balancing on one foot
  • Monitoring pulse rates
  • Checking pupil dilationIf a police officer observes abnormal behavior during the 12-step evaluation, the driver will be required to take a blood test. Driving under the influence of marijuana has prompted the creation of new intoxicated driving laws.

Dangers of Using Marijuana

The following health risks have been confirmed through research over the past few years:

Respiratory disease

Marijuana smoking may cause illnesses in the respiratory system such as blockages in the bronchial passages. Chronic exposure to marijuana smoke can also severely damage the lungs causing similar effects as cigarette smoking.

Cardiovascular ailments

Chemicals in cannabis make the heart beat faster. Smoking cannabis can create a two-fold effect on heart rate. Marijuana users who have heart conditions run a greater risk of having a heart attack. Chronic elevation in heart rate may also result in stroke and disrupted heart rhythm.


Marjiuana use increases the risk of osteoporosis. Heavy users of marijuana are more prone to significant reduction in bone density compared to those who have never tried marijuana.

Cognitive Impairment

Marijuana may affect the verbal function of users. Studies have shown that marijuana users may suffer a large decline in their IQ scores. Some were also observed to have poorer memory compared to those who do not use the drug.

While there are many studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of marijuana as a treatment for chronic stress, marijuana use is associated with reduced blood flow in the brain. As a result, the user may suffer dysfunctional growth of brain cells, which may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study discovered long-term marijuana use dramatically affects the normal functioning of retinal ganglion cells (RCGs). RCGs are responsible for connecting the retina to the brain as the main processors of visual information. Slowed RCG function can lead to hallucinations and inaccurate interpretation of surroundings.

Poor sleep

While there are studies showing the benefits of marijuana to help users sleep, there were also proven instances of users having disrupted sleeping patterns. Some marijuana users demonstrate a high tendency toward insomnia and other sleep disorders.


Withdrawal from marijuana use often leads to disruption of sleeping patterns, mood swings, decrease or loss of appetite, depression, and anxiety.

Common Signs of Marijuana Abuse

The signs of marijuana intoxication can be recognized almost immediately:

Increased appetite

While rapid weight loss is observed in some users, increased appetite is an obvious side effect of being high.

Lack of concentration

Cannabis use is known to impair the usual ability of the user to concentrate and focus on a singular task.

Uneasiness and paranoia

Marijuana users often describe feeling anxious or uneasy while high, which is the body’s response to certain compounds in marijuana.

Rapid heart rate

Marijuana can be damaging to the cardiovascular system, especially on normal rhythm and blood pressure. This is the main reason why users become more prone to strokes.

Impaired reflexes

The psychoactive effects of marijuana can affect reflexes and motor skills, prompting stricter marijuana DUI laws.

Roadside Marijuana Testing Laws

Studies show that driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous as it disrupts concentration, visual function, speed, judgment, and reaction time.

In the 2017 report of the United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration entitled “Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress”, the following points were mentioned:

  • The effects of marijuana on driving ability is widely understood, but more difficult to detect than drunk driving.
  • Police personnel in every state should be required to undergo training to identify signs of drug impairment conduct administer roadside drug testing.
  • Impaired driving laws and infractions vary from state to state. However, even where marijuana is decriminalized, permitted users should never operate a motor vehicle while under the influence, as drugged driving remains illegal.
  • Some states will penalize a driver impaired by marijuana before issuing a drug test, whereas enforcement in other states will wait for evidence from a roadside drug test before making a decision.
  • Marijuana breath testing may not exist yet, but an instant saliva drug test makes for a reliable roadside test in the meantime.


Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the world and continues to grow in popularity with global legalization movements.

Different states have gone through the process of creating their unique laws on driving under the influence of marijuana, and these laws are instrumental in maintaining roads safety.

Ultimately, roadside marijuana testing is a viable technique to ensure that drivers uphold their responsibility for safety while operating the vehicle.

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