Calls for police to adopt new model of roadside drug testing if marijuana is legalised

Lachlan Roberts 7 June 2019 28

Under the proposed bill, Canberrans possessing up to 50g of cannabis or growing four cannabis plants would no longer be committing a criminal offence. File photo.

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.

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.

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28 Responses to Calls for police to adopt new model of roadside drug testing if marijuana is legalised
Emily Carter Emily Carter 11:57 am 13 Jun 19

Seems to work overseas. No reason why it shouldn't here

Grimm Grimm 10:52 am 11 Jun 19

Yes, lets legalise a drug for general use that has proven links to psychosis. This is stupidity of the highest magnitude.

Any medical use for the plant does not require being a stoned houso. The compounds that have medicinal use can be extracted and used by pharmaceutical companies.

Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 9:20 pm 10 Jun 19

If legalised (like alcohol) why would it be treated any differently! Impairment tests are not used for drink drivers, so why would pot users be treated differently? 🤷‍♂️ Drug self test kits could be made available (for purchase) just like breathalyser units can be purchased by anyone!

    Phillip Scharf Phillip Scharf 11:52 am 11 Jun 19

    Imants Ezergailis unfortunately roadside testing is not capable of providing the kind of resolution breath tests provide with alcohol (I.e. 0.05g/l v. postive/negative). Then there is the question of how many units per litre of blood is acceptable for driving and the current research on this topic has suggested that there is no impairment or at the least, there is no direct correlation with dose and level of impairment.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 8:59 pm 11 Jun 19

    Phillip Scharf : So with all these unanswered questions, why is the Assembly rushing through their legislation?!! There would be a lot of drivers who would display no impairment at low levels (0.05 to 0.08) of blood alcohol! Where to now??

    Andrew Dudley Andrew Dudley 11:41 am 13 Jun 19

    Imants Ezergailis it’s not being rushed through, It’s been discussed by local mla’s and anyone form the public that’s been interested for over a year. I saw Michael Peterson’s draft for the bill quite a while ago now.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 4:47 pm 13 Jun 19

    Andrew Dudley : Have all the questions been answered? Sounds like there are still more loose ends than a ball of cut string!

bigred bigred 8:30 pm 10 Jun 19

I have seen some recent noise about moving towards a zero BAC% for drivers in the interest of road safety. Maybe this might be the better approach rather than trying to agree an impairment test for canabis?

Angela M J Brown Angela M J Brown 7:24 pm 10 Jun 19

But don't go to QBN or you will be busted. NSW have introduced tough drug driving lawas, so while you might be OK in the ACT,you won't be in NSW

Ella Factor Ella Factor 5:54 pm 10 Jun 19

This would actually encourage more responsible driving.

With alcohol, people know that if they wait till they are no longer under the influence, they won’t get charged for driving. That’s an incentive to wait until sober to drive.

But with pot, people know that they are just as likely to get busted driving the next day, when not under any influence, as they are to get busted driving while actually stoned. So there’s no incentive to wait until no longer impaired.

If driving under the influence laws are aimed at discouraging people from driving under the influence, then logic states that they should actually be designed to test if people are driving under the influence.

Trace amounts can be detected weeks after the influence has worn off.

And it’s currently legal to travel to countries where consumption is legal, then travel back to australia the next day, and drive here, not under the influence of any drugs (but trace amounts will still be found if tested)

So the current laws can negatively impact people that have broken no laws at all, just because we test for trace amounts, not impairment.

Raffy Sgroi Raffy Sgroi 3:53 pm 10 Jun 19

Employers and businesses should manage the work-related risks associated with alcohol and other drugs under WHS policy , so what should they do? .

Donna Venables Donna Venables 3:20 pm 10 Jun 19

What about drug testing for work?

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 5:25 pm 10 Jun 19

    Donna Venables places already have that

    Donna Venables Donna Venables 5:29 pm 10 Jun 19

    Marc Edwards yes. I know. But what I’m trying to ask is, if people are allowed to drive with cannabis in their system, are these people also allowed to work with cannabis in their system? Would it be considered a double standard?

    Christopher J Cornock Christopher J Cornock 6:44 pm 10 Jun 19

    Donna Venables I don’t think anyone is suggesting it’s ok to drive or work intoxicated even if it is allowed recreationally.

    Nate Mooré Nate Mooré 6:54 pm 10 Jun 19

    Donna Venables no different to alcohol - just because it's legal doesn't mean you can't lose your job if you violate employment conditions

Craig Dingwall Craig Dingwall 3:20 pm 10 Jun 19

CBD oil for inflammatory diseases.

Lauryn Roberts Lauryn Roberts 3:00 pm 10 Jun 19

Yet many medications out there that say ‘may make you drowsy don’t drive or operate machinery’ are they tested for?!

Darrell S Morrison Darrell S Morrison 2:59 pm 10 Jun 19

Decriminalise for general use and legalise for medical use. No drug driving. Can't have it both ways.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 5:25 pm 10 Jun 19

    Darrell S Morrison it depends at what level the residual THC level is, generally after 6 hours the human body has returned to normal with little to no THC left in the blood, however trace amount can be detected for up to 2 weeks.

    David Murn David Murn 8:39 pm 10 Jun 19

    Marc, I think you'll find its significantly longer, several months.

    Phillip Scharf Phillip Scharf 11:55 am 11 Jun 19

    Darrell S Morrison um... that is already the case in the ACT...

Tash Daniel Tash Daniel 2:57 pm 10 Jun 19

Legalise it for medicinal purposes only.

    James Harber James Harber 5:14 pm 10 Jun 19

    Tash Daniel nah mate

    Tash Daniel Tash Daniel 5:23 pm 10 Jun 19

    James Harber yeah mate

    David Murn David Murn 8:37 pm 10 Jun 19

    That doesn't change the laws, your solution would still criminalise people with a medical condition from driving if they used their prescribed medication.

    James Harber James Harber 11:44 am 13 Jun 19

    Legalise it because weed was only criminalised because of racist motives.

    So if you're down with that, good for you, but I'm not.

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 2:44 pm 10 Jun 19

About time!

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