Call for urgent review of state road rules following legalisation of medicinal cannabis

Medicinal cannabis scheme ignites lawyers' concerns over drug driving laws.
Medicinal cannabis scheme ignites lawyers' concerns over drug driving laws.

A Sydney criminal solicitor is calling for an urgent review of existing Australian driving laws to cater for changes in the legalisation of medical cannabis.

The recently relaxed importation laws by the Federal Government mean that seriously ill Australians will have easier access to specially produced cannabis, making it a more viable method of pain relief for patients with chronic conditions.  

However, driving laws in each state have yet to be updated to accommodate the legalisation of medical cannabis, potentially putting seriously ill Australians at a significant disadvantage.

Adam Ly, Principal of LY Lawyers, said existing laws were formulated on the basis that cannabis was an illegal substance, with current mobile drug testing units testing for any trace of the substance in a motorist’s bloodstream. This is in stark contrast to alcohol, where random breath testing units specifically test for an alcohol blood level that causes impairment, rather than the presence.

“The laws need to be changed, it’s as simple as that,” said Mr Ly.

“There was a case last year of a motorist who was busted by an MDT nine days after smoking cannabis – long after he could possibly have been impaired by the drug. With seriously ill Australians having to consume medical cannabis on a regular basis to manage their pain symptoms, even responsible use of the substance could rule them out of driving a motor vehicle altogether.

“Anyone who is caught behind the wheel with even the tiniest trace of cannabis in their system could face a criminal conviction and be forced off the road for six months.

“Now that the Federal Government has paved the way for use of medicinal cannabis in special cases, it is necessary for state governments to revise their zero-tolerance policies.

“Clear processes with definitive and structured criteria need to be developed to assess the legality, or illegality, of driving with trace amounts of medicinal cannabis in the blood. These should be based on scientific research into how much of the drug can be tolerated without impairing a driver.

“The worst thing we can do when introducing such a controversial, but necessary reform, is confuse people. It is important to facilitate the transition as best we can and this requires forward looking legislation.”