Over 7,400 Australians have signed a new petition to change Australia’s current drug driving laws so that medical cannabis patients have the same driving rights as other licensed adults.
The petition was started by the activist group Drive Change last week, targeting several prominent parliament members, including Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews, and the health and policing ministers from each state. It argues that medical cannabis patients who return a positive roadside test for THC should be permitted to use their medical cannabis prescription as a defence. To be eligible for this defence, the following criteria would need to be met:
- The driver has a valid prescription for a drug containing THC
- The offence does not involve reckless or dangerous driving
- The officer cannot establish driver impairment
Medical cannabis is currently the only prescribed medication without such a defence.
While medical cannabis has been legal in Australia since 2016, Australia’s drug driving laws prohibit anyone from driving with THC (one of cannabis’s psychoactive components) in their body. Research from the University of Sydney shows that the impairment from medical cannabis containing THC only mildly affects drivers for up to four hours.
According to Drive Change, Australia’s drug driving laws discriminate against medical cannabis patients, 70% of whom are taking THC in their medication. The group also says that the need for change is growing, as Australia could have as many as 100,000 medical cannabis patients in 2022. A further 1 million Australians may also try over-the-counter CBD oil when it’s available in pharmacies (which can contain trace amounts of THC).
Other research from the University of Melbourne has confirmed that driving under the influence of medical cannabis puts someone at a “similar or lower” risk than driving under the influence of other prescription medications. This is backed up by Australian medical cannabis patients themselves, 71.9% of whom are confident medical cannabis doesn’t impact their driving.
Drive Change’s petition is hosted on change.org and has a goal of 7,500 signatures. As of this week, it’s nearly already achieved its goal. The petition already has the support of several members of Parliament, including Sophia Moermond (WA LCWA), Cate Faehrmann (NSW Greens), Tammy Franks (SA Greens), and Fiona Patten (Leader of Reason Party). It’s also supported by ex-Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Mich Palmer and ex-NSW magistrate David Heilpern, who says:
One of the key reasons I left my job as a Magistrate was because I could not stomach these unfair, discriminatory and counterproductive laws. People who are prescribed THC as a medicine should not be criminalised when they drive unless in some way they pose a danger to the community.
If you would like to sign the petition, you can do so here.