President of AFPA attends cannabis inquiry at Parliament

AFPA President on ACT cannabis legalisation bill

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In an inquiry into the Drugs of Dependence (Personal Cannabis Use) Amendment Bill held on 26th March, one of the parties invited to comment was the AFPA. The President of the AFPA made some interesting comments.

The President, Angela Smith, mentioned the AFPA represents over 4,000 AFP employees on matters such of this. In the past few weeks, she’d taken the time to discuss the bill with a few of them – all of which were opposed to legalising cannabis in the ACT.

The AFPA acknowledges that it is hard to deny the widespread use of cannabis in the ACT and elsewhere in Australia and cannabis is very much here to stay for the foreseeable future. We also don’t deny that the communities perception of cannabis is softening and we also don’t dispute that cannabis may have medicinal purposes.

She then proceeds to clarify the AFPA’s submission and answer any questions the committee had.

One re-occurring point, made by the Chief Police of the ACT as well, was the conflict in legislation between the ACT and the Commonwealth that would potentially occur should Michael Patterson’s cannabis legalisation be put through.

The President simply stated it would leave the AFP open to charging cannabis users in the ACT under the Criminal Code Act. Meaning the AFP would have the option to charge ACT cannabis users under Commonwealth Law, even though it’s been legalised in the ACT.

When questioned by the committee on the similar conflict generated by the recent overwhelmingly successful pill-testing in the ACT, she was stumped.

Mmmmmm, good question. Ahhhhhh…I’m not suuuure. Haven’t gone down that path…sorry chair.

On another note, the AFPA’s submission also contained comments on the lack of connection between the proposed cannabis legalisation and the Road Transport Act, in particular – Drug Driving.

She mentioned one alternative was to completely remove the test for cannabis during roadside testing.

One committee member, Caroline Le Couteur asked: “Why?”. Good question.

“I guess what would be the point in having….you’re allowed to smoke or consume cannabis at your home, and then the next day, or two days later, you then get pulled over by the police”, was the President’s response. Caroline was quick to point out “You do that with alcohol.”

AFPA
AFPA

Alex Caruana, the Vice President of the AFPA, then took the lead, mentioning alcohol testing is based on a level of impairment, whereas current cannabis testing returns a simple POSITIVE/NEGATIVE result. He isn’t wrong, but he also brings up the undeniable flaw in the current drug-driving testing laws – they don’t measure for impairment.

Cannabis can stay in your system anywhere between 3 and 21 days, depending on how often you use and what type of test is conducted. For example, if you consumed cannabis on Friday night, you could get pulled over and still test positive for cannabis on Monday. Even though you’re not impaired in the slightest.

We recommend looking to Canada, who’ve currently operate in a legal state of recreational cannabis use.

These are the current steps in Canada’s drug-driving policy:

  • An officer must first see signs a person is driving impaired through what they hear, see, or smell
  • If the officer sees any impairment signals, they may ask the person to provide an oral fluid sample to be screened by Approved Drug Screening Equipment (ADSE)
  • Should the ADSE return a positive test for drugs, the driver may be arrested to undergo additional tests. Note, this positive test is not admissible in court and be unable to be used to prove an offence
  • Additional testing may include blood sampling, which can be used in an offence trial

Here are the relevant clips of the AFPA during the inquiry:

You can read the full transcript here. Or you can watch the recording of the hearing on ACT’s Assembly On Demand.

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