On the heels of the Illinois Supreme Court recently hearing oral arguments about aroma as lone probable cause for a vehicle search and supreme court judges commenting on cannabis-impaired drivers and public safety, Illinois Rep. Dave Vella today introduced House Bill 4890, which would amend the Illinois Vehicle Code to include language that eventually would allow law enforcement to use a cannabis breathalyzer during a sobriety test.
HB4890 would add the word “breath” to the law and state, “Driving while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or compounds or any combination thereof…the person has, within 2 hours of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle, a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration in the person’s breath, blood, or other bodily substance other than urine whole blood or other bodily substance as defined in paragraph 6 of subsection (a) of Section 11-501.2 of this Code. Subject to all other requirements and provisions under this Section, this paragraph (7) does not apply to the lawful consumption of cannabis by a qualifying patient licensed under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act who is in possession of a valid registry card issued under that Act, unless that person is impaired by the use of cannabis.”
With one added sentence, another HB4890 amendment, in relation to a trial of any civil or criminal action proceeding arising out of an arrest for driving while under the influence, redefines “Tetrahydrocannabinol concentration” as “either 5 nanograms or more of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of whole blood or 10 nanograms or more of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter of other bodily substance. For purposes of this subsection, ‘delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’ includes parent delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or free delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.” After its first reading, HB4890 was referred to the Rules Committee.
Though pilot research continues, detecting THC cannabis with a breathalyzer has not yet been able to reliably indicate recent cannabis use. According to the conclusion of a small “proof of concept” study authored by five researchers and published in the Journal of Breath Research in May 2023, “Quantitative values were broadly comparable to other pilot studies with different devices, sampling protocols, and participant characteristics. Our results do not support the idea that detecting THC in breath as a single measurement could reliably indicate recent cannabis use.”
Scientists and engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and researchers at CU Boulder performed the study. Their goal was to develop reliable, standardized industry protocols for detecting cannabis impairment via breath, or at least determine whether it is even possible.
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