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The hunt for breathalyzers

The Massachusetts State Police assessment is part of a nationwide effort by police to deal with the lack of chemical tests for drug intoxication comparable to Breathalyzers that are used to measure drunkenness. Legal experts say any chemical test is likely to face challenges in court.

“We’re hoping the technology catches up and, similar to the Breathalyzer, comes up with some way for us to detect if somebody is under the influence of marijuana,” state police Maj. Rick Ball told the Herald yesterday. “The goal is to maintain safe roadways.”

The cotton swab samples are analyzed to detect the presence of marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin in a driver’s saliva, but that doesn’t tell police how much is in a suspect’s system or how intoxicated that person is.

However, the test would allow police to determine if the person had used drugs and may bolster the case of officers trained as drug recognition experts who assess a person’s level of intoxication and testify in court.