The Victorian State Government is considering legislation that would allow medical cannabis patients to drive without breaching the state’s drug driving laws.
While medical cannabis has been legal since 2016, driving after consuming cannabis medications is still considered a breach of the 1986 Road Safety Act. In an Australian-first move, Victoria may adopt new laws that make an exception for medical cannabis patients.
Australian police currently detect cannabis in a driver’s body using blood, urine, and saliva tests that look for Delta-9 THC (a psychoactive component of cannabis). While blood and urine tests are uncommon, they are considered the most effective, as saliva tests are ineffective 16% of the time.
To investigate the new legislation, the Victorian government plans to establish a “working group” overseen by the Department of Justice and Community Safety. The group will include police, members of parliament, and doctors – as well as Reason Party MP Fiona Patten.
Ms. Patten has used her platform to fight for the rights of medical cannabis patients for the past five years. She has told The Age that Australia is the only jurisdiction where medical cannabis users can be prosecuted under drug driving laws. She was quoted as saying:
Medicinal cannabis patients should be treated in the exact same way as any other patient who is prescribed a medication.
Ms. Patten believes that legislation addressing this problem would directly impact over 4,000 Victorians and will set a precedent for the other 60,000 Australian medical cannabis patients.
Labour MP Harriet Shing agreed that Victoria’s current laws need to be reconsidered, as she believes Australian drug laws are only concerned with the presence of cannabis in a driver’s body and not whether the driver is impaired.
While the “high” of cannabis can last up to 12 hours after consumption, cannabis remains in the body for an undetermined length of time. Research by the US National Drug Institute has previously found that THC remains in the blood for 2 – 7 days but THC can also be found in urine up to 67 days after consumption.
Australia-wide, regressive drug-driving laws based on THC has lead to sober Australians being convicted on drug driving offenses.
The findings of the government’s working group will be reported on December 18.