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  • Christopher D.

Driving With Marijuana in Virginia: THC Breathalyzers on the Horizon

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers are working on a groundbreaking project that could revolutionize roadside testing for cannabis impairment. In this blog post, we delve into the development of THC breathalyzers, how they could impact DUI enforcement, and why medical marijuana remains a responsible choice for individuals seeking effective treatment.

The THC Breathalyzer Project

The pursuit of accurate and efficient methods to detect cannabis impairment on the road has led to exciting developments at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Emanuele Alves, a VCU professor with a doctorate in forensic science, joined forces with Wagner Pacheco, an associate professor at Universidade Federal Fluminense in Brazil, who holds a doctorate in inorganic analytical chemistry. Together, they embarked on a mission to create a THC breathalyzer that promises immediate and precise results.

The need for such a device arises from the limitations of existing testing methods. Conventional tests, such as urine or hair analysis, cannot provide real-time results and often yield false positives.

Blood tests offer a more immediate window of detection, typically covering a 3- to 4-hour timeframe, but are not a practical option for assessing driver impairment in real-time. Current THC breathalyzers also suffer from long waiting times, rendering them less effective for law enforcement.

THC vs. CBD Detection

One key innovation that sets the VCU-developed breathalyzer apart is its ability to differentiate between THC and CBD in an individual's system. THC and CBD, two of the most prominent compounds found in marijuana, have distinct effects. While THC is responsible for the psychoactive "high" associated with marijuana use, CBD does not produce this effect and is often utilized in various health and wellness products.

With the VCU THC breathalyzer, law enforcement can quickly determine if a driver is under the influence of THC, enhancing road safety by holding impaired drivers accountable. Operating a vehicle while impaired is illegal and poses significant risks to both the driver and others on the road.

The ambitious goal of Alves and Pacheco is to have a functioning prototype of the THC breathalyzer by 2025. This timeline underscores their dedication to advancing roadside safety measures and providing law enforcement with an effective tool for assessing cannabis impairment.

NORML's Stance

While the development of THC breathalyzers is seen as a positive step by many, it has also garnered criticism from organizations like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). NORML expresses concerns regarding the efficacy of THC breathalyzers in accurately assessing impairment.

According to JM Pedini, the development director for NORML, scientific studies have failed to establish a clear correlation between the presence of THC in breath and impairment or recent cannabis exposure. As a result, NORML advocates for alternative approaches, such as performance-based tests, to determine an individual's sobriety.

One such example is the DRUID test, an app that measures cognitive and motor functioning to assess impairment. Factors like reaction time, hand-eye coordination, and balance are evaluated, and an impairment score is generated based on the results.

NORML's reservations also stem from the lack of regulatory oversight in the CBD product market. Inconsistent labeling and inaccurate content information could lead consumers to unknowingly purchase products containing THC, potentially affecting the reliability of THC breathalyzer results.

DUIs and Cannabis in Virginia

To contextualize the importance of developing accurate impairment detection tools, it's crucial to examine the local landscape. The VCU Police Department reported issuing 20 DUIs in the past year, with two of these cases indicating the presence of drugs or narcotics, according to police Detective Frederick Wiggins.

In states like Colorado, where recreational cannabis is legal, there have been reports of cannabis-related traffic fatalities. In 2021, nearly 80 deaths were linked to drivers exceeding the legal THC limit, highlighting the need for enhanced enforcement measures.

Medical Marijuana in Virginia

Amid these discussions on THC breathalyzers and cannabis impairment, it's essential to emphasize the responsible use of marijuana, particularly in the context of medical treatment. Medical marijuana programs, like the one in Virginia, provide individuals with qualifying medical conditions access to safe and effective treatments.

Medical marijuana offers a regulated and compassionate avenue for patients to obtain marijuana products while adhering to state laws. Healthcare professionals guide patients in creating tailored treatment plans based on their specific medical needs.

Moreover, the medical program ensures that patients have access to a wide range of strains and products designed to address their unique health requirements. Stringent quality control measures are in place to guarantee the safety and consistency of these products, providing patients with reliable options for treatment.

Scientific research continues to validate the efficacy of medical marijuana in managing a variety of medical conditions, offering hope and relief to countless patients. While discussions about THC breathalyzers persist, medical marijuana programs remain a responsible and legitimate choice for individuals seeking effective treatment.


In summary, the ongoing development of THC breathalyzers marks a substantial stride in the ongoing mission to bolster road safety and ensure the effective enforcement of laws pertaining to cannabis impairment. Virginia Commonwealth University's groundbreaking initiatives in this domain underscore a dedication to innovation and road safety accountability.

Nevertheless, it's imperative to recognize that responsible marijuana usage, particularly within medical contexts, remains instrumental in enhancing the well-being of patients. As we continue to adapt to evolving legal landscapes and technological advancements, it's essential to grasp the significance of medical marijuana and its indispensable role in responsible healthcare practices.

Get Your Medical Marijuana Card Today

Lucky for you, medical marijuana is already legal in Virginia! You can get your medical marijuana card today if you have a qualifying condition and see if cannabis helps with your depressive symptoms.

Recreational marijuana is legal in Virginia too, but it does not mean much since there are no recreational dispensaries to purchase products from.

There are also countless benefits to having your medical card in a recreational state! You will save money on taxes and cannabis products and enjoy higher possession and purchase limits if you have your medical card in Virginia!

In order to qualify for your medical marijuana card, you will need to have a condition that would make you eligible. If you aren’t sure if you would qualify, give us a call and we can answer any questions you may have about the process.

If you don’t already have your card, no worries. We can help! If you think you could benefit from medical marijuana, there is a good chance you would qualify for your medical card in the State of Virginia. With telemedicine, it is now easier than ever to get your medical card from the comfort of your own home!

In Virginia, any inhibiting condition could qualify you for your medical card. If you don’t already have it, we can help! Schedule an evaluation online today and we’ll make an appointment for you with one of our knowledgeable, compassionate doctors.


Doctors Who Care.

Relief You Can Trust.

At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness

safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on

education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by

providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

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