A trial in the Australian state of Victoria will investigate road safety risks associated with driving while using legal medical cannabis.
As in most Australian states and territories, it is an offence in Victoria for a person to drive with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their system. This includes THC from medicinal cannabis – even if the driver is not impaired by it. Medical cannabis patients face the same penalties as others, including a mandatory driver licence suspension and fines.
As THC can stay in the body long after its effects have worn off, this means patients using medicines containing THC need to stay off the roads or risk prosecution. Even the use of very low THC hemp-based products carries this risk.
In late February this year, Victorian Premier Dan Andrews signalled a willingness to tackle the issue of medical cannabis and driving; reportedly stating it to be an issue that has “bedevilled” his government. On Monday, the Victorian Government announced a closed track circuit trial to commence next year and run through 2024. While this is a step in the right direction, Legalise Cannabis Victoria has acknowledged the frustration caused to patients by yet another delay.
“Victoria was the first state to legalise medicinal cannabis in 2016 and the debate about driving started then,” said Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP David Ettershank. “In the meantime there have been dozens of studies that have been replicated many times to show that medicinal cannabis patients can drive safely.”
The party says its objective is to have this trial over and done with as quickly as possible – and it will be involved in co-designing all elements of the trial.
“Once the trial is complete there should not be barriers to medicinal cannabis patients getting safely on the road and Legalise Cannabis Victoria will work very hard to speed up the process that the government has outlined.”
The party is also urging the adoption of a Medicinal Cannabis Clinical Decision Support Tool for prescribing practitioners. Similar support tools are already in use by doctors to help patients drive safely while prescribed impairing medications including opioids and benzodiazepines.
The Medicinal Cannabis and Safe Driving Working Group delivered its ‘Assisting medicinal cannabis patients to drive safely’ report to the Victorian Government back in 2021.