As the heat is turned up across Australia regarding driving laws and medical cannabis use, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has signalled he’s ready to do something about it.
In most Australian states and territories, patients using legally prescribed cannabis products containing THC can lose their driver’s license for testing positive to it; even it is having no impact on their ability to drive safely.
In Victoria, where medicinal cannabis has been legal since 2016, the rules as they stand are pretty clear.
“It is an offence in Victoria for a person to drive with any amount of THC in their system, including any amount of THC from medicinal cannabis. Penalties for drug-driving include a mandatory driver licence suspension and monetary fines.”
While a state government report released in 2021 looked at how a medicinal cannabis patient’s fitness to drive can be assessed, more than two years on since the report was released nothing has changed.
Putting the issue back in the spotlight was a Bill introduced to Victoria’s parliament last week seeking to make changes to the Road Safety Act that would allow authorised users of medicinal cannabis to drive, assuming they can do so safely.
And now the Premier has weighed in. In comments reported in The Age, Dan Andrews acknowledged it being an issue that’s “bedevilled” his government. He said a way needs to be found through it for the sake of up to 200,000 Victorians who are currently using medicinal cannabis with a script from a doctor and unable to drive.
“I don’t want them to feel they can’t access that care because we don’t have [updated] drug-driving laws and we don’t have a test that can test for impairment,” he said.
While up to 200,000 Victorians may be using medical cannabis legally, it doesn’t mean all of them are using products containing THC. Some may be using CBD only, which research suggests doesn’t impair driving ability and isn’t impacted by current driving rules.
Responding to the Premier’s comments, David Ettershank MP said:
“This sounds very promising. We welcome the Premier’s comments and we look forward to working with the government to bring about positive change.
Mr. Ettershank was one of the two MPs to introduce the Road Safety Amendment (Medical Cannabis) Bill. The bill is scheduled for debate next Wednesday.