The issue of medical cannabis use while driving in Australia is back in the spotlight again after an incident in New South Wales.
NSW Traffic and Highway Control Command reported Campbelltown Highway Patrol officers recently arrested a 21 year-old female in Oran Park after a positive drug test to medically prescribed cannabis.
“Shortly before 7pm on Friday night, the woman was stopped for random testing on Oran Park Drive. She undertook a breath test and a drug test and returned a positive reading for cannabis,” (assumed: THC) states a Command Facebook post. “The driver was questioned about her cannabis use and informed police she had been prescribed the drug for pain management ‘so it’s allowed’.”
But it isn’t.
The New South Wales Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Innovation states:
“It is illegal for patients taking cannabis medicines which contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to drive. This is because THC can affect the cognitive and motor skills necessary for safe driving, such as attention, judgment, memory, vision and coordination.”
There was quite a reaction on Facebook to the incident, with more than 860 comments at the time of writing. Many commenters stated the situation was unfair, particularly given the mere presence of THC doesn’t mean the person was impaired.
Still, laws are laws – and if a law is unfair; then due process needs to take place to change it. And there is some movement in Australia on this front, although it’s very slow.
Last year, The Australian state of Victoria’s government released a report considering how a medicinal cannabis patient’s fitness to drive can be assessed, with view to perhaps altering laws in that state that also ban driving with any detectable level of THC in the bloodstream.
Early last year, researchers at the University of Sydney’s Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics defined durations of impairment after THC dosing – but unfortunately it’s not a cut-and-dried situation as many variables come into play.
It’s really important for patients using legal medical cannabis to understand the laws in various jurisdictions with regard to driving – and exactly what is in their medicines.
With regard to cannabidiol (CBD) medications not containing THC, patients are generally are able to legally drive as long as there is no impairment, but again it’s important to check local laws as these may differ between states and territories.