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Washington eyes new marijuana DUI testing technology

Washington state troopers are keeping a close eye on their colleagues in Colorado who keeps continuing to test new technology aimed at keeping drivers, who are under in influence, off the road.

Law enforcement officers in Washington do not have a device to detect pot or any other drugs. They rely on their skills and standard field sobriety test. Across the country and around the world, a wide-range of machines are being developed and tested similar to Washington State University’s marijuana breathalyzer.

“Whether it’s measuring THC on the breath or in the saliva, some are looking at transdermal applications, so just measuring off of sweat from the body,” said Lt. Rob Sharpe with the Washington State Patrol.

Sharpe is the impaired driving section commander with WSP. He says, predominantly, saliva detection is being tested in different jurisdictions outside of Washington state. More than 125 troopers in Colorado are working with the new technology. WSP says there’s simply not enough science for state officials Washington to feel confident yet.

“If we’re going to adopt something in Washington, we want to make sure it’s very reliable accurate and doesn’t suffer from false positives or false negatives that could occur,” said Sharpe.

Under the current procedures, a warrant must be requested before a blood draw following a DUI arrest. WSP say that will continue to happen even if the new technology is adopted by the state.

WSP has a full-time librarian collecting studies from around the world on new testing mechanisms that could work well for troopers in the Evergreen State.

“Right now we’re just waiting on validation of these test devices and then we’ll make a determination after that for their accuracy, precision and reliability,” said Sharpe.

WSP says it doesn’t see a front-runner among new technology, yet, and there is no timeline on when troopers could be carrying new testing machines.