Australia’s Legalise Cannabis Party is pushing for medicinal cannabis patients taking medicines containing THC to be able to drive without fear of prosecution.
In most Australian states, it’s illegal to drive with any level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the cannabinoid responsible for the high produced by cannabis. While it’s legal to drive while using CBD (cannabidiol) medications, some of these can have trace levels of THC that can may be picked up in a roadside drug test.
Currently, the New South Wales Department of Health states;
“In NSW, it is an offence to drive
(a) with the presence of THC in oral fluid, blood or urine; or
(b) under the influence of THC.
There is no medical defence to these offences specified in the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) for using a prescribed cannabis medicine.”
THC can remain in the body at detectable levels long after its effects have worn off – from days to weeks after consumption depending on the circumstances.
The situation is resulting in poor outcomes for medical cannabis patients, including some choosing to not take their medicine or taking it based around their need to drive. Other issues include social isolation and the use of potentially problematic medications as substitutes, such as opioids.
Under legislation proposed by the Legalise Cannabis Party introduced to NSW parliament this week, if a person is taking medicinal cannabis in accordance with their prescription and they’re not impaired but test positive in a roadside drug test (RDT), they can go to court and present their prescription to avoid a fine and/or loss of driver’s licence.
In an interview on radio station 2GB this week, Legalise Cannabis Party leader Jeremy Buckingham stated:
“We’re calling on the Minns Government to pass the bill. And if not, then to look at a trial of a cohort of medicinal cannabis patients. Put them on the road, give them their prescription, give them the advice from the doctor and see how they go over a year, couple of thousand driving. Let’s see how they operate. And we believe we can have a safe system in terms of road safety and people taking their medicine responsibly.”
Over the border in Victoria, there have been rumours such a trial could soon occur in that state. Earlier this year, Premier Dan Andrews reportedly signalled he was ready to tackle the issue of medical cannabis and driving; acknowledging it as an issue that has “bedevilled” his government.