While the cannabis industry continues to grow, law enforcement agencies are scrambling for solutions to prevent or deter driving under the influence. Although impaired driving has always been a focus of the nation’s law enforcement entities, the legalization of medicinal cannabis has raised significant concerns regarding the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence of cannabis. Taking a similar approach to alcohol, rapid cannabis roadside testing is on the rise, and manufacturers are scrambling to bring an effective device to market.
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Update: As of November 2023, the JTS website is no longer functional.
The traditional breathalyzer is getting an upgrade. New cannabis roadside testing devices such Judicial Testing Systems’ P.I.A. Mobile Quantitative Roadside Probable Cause DUID Testing Device and the Alere DDS 2 Mobile Testing System are designed to rapidly detect an assortment of intoxicants quickly and easily roadside, at work, in schools, or anywhere.
The federal guidelines for workplace drug testing were revised in May 2015 to include guidance on oral fluid testing, and now law enforcement agencies are starting to follow suit. Unlike traditional urine tests, these devices are capable of detecting intoxicants within minutes or hours of consumption, a window of time omitted by urine test results.
According to their website, Judicial Testing Systems (JTS) objectives are to bring to market tools to help combat the ever-changing arena of alcohol and drug abuse challenges. With the mission at hand, JTS forged ahead to develop the P.I.A. DUID Testing Device. The P.I.A. has the ability to test any bodily fluid, which makes them ideal for roadside testing, as saliva swabs are quickly and easily collected anywhere. As a stand-alone collection and analysis platform, the P.I.A. is capable of collecting from and analyzing a multitude of mediums, including urine, saliva, blood, sweat, other substances and even surfaces to identify a higher number of intoxicants. P.I.A.’s ability to test multiple mediums saves law enforcement time and hassle.
Not only does the P.I.A. allow for multiple sample mediums, the parameters for intoxicants include cannabinoids, MDMA and cocaine, as well as a wide range of prescription medications. In all, the Protzec PIA can test for 21 different types of intoxicants and substances. After the test is complete, the P.I.A. stores the collected data and analysis until the user uploads the material into their agency’s database. With multiple law enforcement agencies across the globe adopting JTS’ P.I.A. DUID, it appears to quickly becoming the standard for rapid roadside testing.
JTS’ P.I.A. is impressive in regards to roadside intoxicant testing. However, Alere’s DDS2 also provides a concise, easy-to-use solution which is more than sufficient for many settings. Although it has smaller parameters and tests only saliva, it is convenient and straightforward, with less room for human error. In fact, Alere claims their intuitive testing requires minimal training.
The DDS2 comes with a self-sustaining collection and analysis platform. The device itself has just three buttons for interface control, making it one of the simplest devices on the market. Also, the DDS2 collects the sample, analyzes it in five minutes, and then allows the operator to immediately print the results on the spot; all while providing the ability to upload the collected data to the agencies’ database.
The DDS2 may not be able to test for as many intoxicants as the JTS device. However, with the ability to test for amphetamine, benzodiazepines, cannabis (THC only), cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and methadone, not much will slide past this sufficient device.
When discussing intoxication, police and employers want to know not just whether someone has used cannabis, but how recently. Traditional urine drug tests detect only the inactive carboxy tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) metabolite, which can produce positive test results as long as 30 days after the user last consumed a cannabis product. While it is imperative to remain vigilant at reducing intoxicated driving, steps must be taken to ensure these tests are accurate and fair.
Questions remain about ethics and misguided direction in regards to testing for cannabinoids. With cannabis specifically, the frequency of use, tolerance, body composition, medical conditions, and metabolism can all play a role in how the user is ultimately affected. Although the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provided oral fluid testing guidance in 2015, there is little-known literature defining the relationship between oral fluid THC concentration and impairment. With as many as 12 states across the US adopting some form of immediate roadside testing, the need for more research concerning the relationship between THC concentration and impairment is a must.