The ACT Government has been encouraged to collaborate with ACT Policing to adopt a new model of cannabis drug driving tests that determine impairment and not just the presence of the drug if marijuana is to be legalised in the ACT.
After four months of scrutinising legislation proposing the legalisation of marijuana, the ACT Legislative Assembly’s health committee has recommended the bill be supported but said there will need to be amendments before the bill is passed.
The majority of the committee, led by Labor MLA Bec Cody, said that they supported the legalisation of cannabis for personal use in the ACT after four public hearings and receiving 36 submissions.
The committee suggested 16 amendments to the bill as it currently stands, which Ms Cody said required immediate action to ensure a Bill representative of the community’s needs is considered by the Assembly.
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The committee recommended that the ACT Government collaborate with ACT Policing to adopt a cannabis drug driving test that determines impairment and not just the presence of the drug and encouraged the ACT Government to intervene in any prosecution by the Commonwealth of ACT residents to “defend the intent of the Bill”.
Under the proposed bill, it would no longer be an offence for adults to possess under 50 grams of cannabis or grow four cannabis plants under the ACT’s criminal code, but it would still remain a criminal offence to cultivate or possess cannabis under Commonwealth legislation.
ACT Labor MLA Michael Pettersson, who proposed the bill, agreed with the committee’s recommendation for a new police drug driving test.
“The committee has proposed some very interesting proposals which I presume are being considered by the executive but I am excited that the committee agreed that this bill is worth progressing,” Mr Pettersson told Region Media.
“It is a very vexed debate in that when you speak to law enforcement officials, they have no concerns about their testing but when you talk to certain cannabis activists, they have a lot of concerns about them.
“These problems with our drug driving laws exist as it stands now. Drug driving tests are not impairment tests; they are detection tests. So if you are caught the tiniest most minuscule amount of cannabis in your system, you will get the equivalent punishment as a max range drink driver.”
Mr Pettersson pointed to an incident across the border in NSW as to why the current drug driving laws needed to be changed.
“There was one person in Sydney who had cannabis a week before they were pulled over for a drug test and they had a trace amount in their system and they copped a full charge,” he said. “No one wants impaired drivers on our road under any conditions but there is a genuine question if the law is working as intended.
“But first and foremost, I want to focus on getting cannabis legalised.”
Mr Pettersson expected the amendments to be debated in the chamber in the coming months.