A petition urging the conditional exemption of medicinal cannabis patients from the Australian state of Victoria’s drug-driving laws has been sponsored by Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP David Ettershank.
In most Australian states, including Victoria, it is illegal to for a person to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system. This includes THC from legally prescribed medicinal cannabis. As THC may be detected long after consumption and its effects have worn off, the situation places patients in a difficult position – having to choose between driving and taking their medication.
David Ettershank MP has been pushing for change, and has recently sponsored a parliamentary petition that requests:
“.. the Legislative Council call on the Government to amend the Road Safety Act 1986 to make it no longer an offence for a driver who is unimpaired to have detectable THC in their blood or oral fluid, provided they have taken their medication as prescribed.”
At the time of writing, the petition had gathered 1,930 signatures.
“The petitioners are asking the Victorian Government move aside and allow doctors and pharmacists to advise their patients when it is safe for them to drive — like all other prescription medications,” said Mr. Ettershank. “If Tassie can do it, so can we.”
Mr. Ettershank is referring to Tasmania, where according to that state’s Department of Health:
“Driving with any detectable amount of THC in your system is an offence in Tasmania unless the product was obtained and administered in accordance with the Poisons Act 1971.”
Victoria has been making some (slow) progress on this thorny issue. The state government recently announced a closed track circuit trial is to commence next year to investigate road safety risks. The news had mixed reactions, with some considering the trial a case of kicking the can down the road. Mr. Ettershank has previously noted there have been “dozens of studies” indicating medicinal cannabis patients can drive safely.
As we reported last month, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has called for related prosecutions in Victoria to be put on pause while the trial is being undertaken.