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Greens’ home entry, dope-testing laws part of cannabis ‘witch hunt’

By Steven Bailey 11 February 2016 22

Marijuana

New laws introduced by Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury this week will give police the power to force their way into a person’s home in order to test someone who is suspected of driving with alcohol or certain drugs in their system.

Yes, there are preconditions and safeguards. For instance, such an intrusion can only occur within two hours of a police officer suspecting that a person has committed a drink or drug driving offence.
But there are serious problems with such a law.

Contrary to claims of people who wouldn’t know a civil liberty if it threw them in jail, I trust and respect the work of police officers. It is, however, an ethical obligation for politicians to make laws that are not easily disposed to an abuse of power. These laws are not made with that obligation.

The Act does not prescribe the ways in which a police officer may gain a suspicion of a drink or drug driving offence.

The colour of your car may well be reason enough for the authorities to force their way into your family home and demand that a swab be taken from your mouth.

I would understand such a political move from the Canberra Conservatives who oddly call themselves the Canberra Liberals, but many would find such a draconian move from the other side of politics surprising and disturbing. I am disturbed but not surprised.

Regrettably, it is now a reasonable expectation in Australian politics that the major parties are not in the business of making laws that increase your freedoms or preserve your rights; rather, the opposite is true.

The proper role of a third force in politics is to keep the bastards honest, but it should be clear by now that the Greens have, in many cases, instead chosen to become the bastards themselves.

These laws have nothing to do with road safety and everything to do with the increasingly unsustainable prohibition of cannabis. New laws which allow police to enter a home to test a driver for drugs will be used by police to bolster their efforts to bust people for possession of marijuana.

These laws confirm that that every politician elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly is content with the ever-increasing witch-hunt against marijuana users in Canberra through new road safety laws.

The Sex Party is strongly against roadside drug testing that merely detects the presence of drugs like marijuana and ecstasy in a person’s system and is not linked to driver impairment. The Sex Party has no problems with roadside testing for alcohol because such testing determines a level of alcohol which research has shown to lead to an impaired ability to operate a vehicle.

No such levels for cannabis exist, and people are being fined substantial amounts and even imprisoned for driving with cannabis levels which pose no threat to other road users. Such laws largely impact younger people over older people and are a form of social and age discrimination.

In the ACT Assembly, the Sex Party would work to repeal these laws until a safe level of cannabis in the blood could be determined.

Steven Bailey is the lead candidate for the ACT Sex Party in the upcoming ACT Legislative Assembly election and a RiotACT columnist.

Photo: iStock


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22 Responses to
Greens’ home entry, dope-testing laws part of cannabis ‘witch hunt’
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ungruntled 10:45 pm 07 Mar 16

May I suggest to anyone who is at all interested in this issue, that you get hold of a book calledChasing The Scream – The first & Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari.
It is a brilliant insight into how this whole drug thing ticks.
Enjoy & be informed by a terrrific researcher.

harolumbus 9:41 pm 18 Feb 16

as an adult , light recreational user of marijuana (and lifelong user) i’m always slightly worried about being pulled over for the pipe I had a few days ago, but home invasion (lets face it, thats what this is) is outright ridiculous !

before thinking about calling for legalization, have a read of this study on the effects legalization has had in Colorado from the medical use beginnings in 2006 to current day. it’s a long report but just reading the summary at the beginning is enough to give you pause for thought.

http://www.basesteencenter.org/documents/August2014LegalizationofMJinColoradotheImpact.pdf

Rustygear 2:23 pm 18 Feb 16

A law that allows police to enter homes (without a warrant?) on ‘suspicion’ that someone has been drink or drug driving? Wow. Now, I dislike the dirty dysfunctional poor who live on welfare with all their intractable problems as much as anyone, but laws that will only be used as an excuse for police to bust in and keep an eye on them as they bong on in their (public housing) living rooms is going a bit far. I mean, to be fair many of these people have mental health issues, and subjecting them to that level of stress might be counterproductive.

HenryBG 10:40 am 15 Feb 16

Ghettosmurf87 said :

do you not also agree that the loophole whereby an impaired driver (be it alcohol or drugs) can make into their own home and therefore avoid being caught is a problem? Surely such a loophole encourages offenders that are close to home to refuse to pull over and instead seek out the safety of their home where they cannot then be charged for their crimes.

Fail to provide a sample is already an offence. So is fail to stop. If you make the penalties for these offences in the same range as the penalties for the offence you imagine somebody would try to dodge in this way, then there is no sugar on the table.

I completely disagree with the path the legal system in this territory is taking. They are still in denial over the comprehensive corruption and incompetence that led to David Eastman’s wrongful conviction, which indicates a system that is broken.

Blen_Carmichael 3:57 pm 14 Feb 16

“The Act does not prescribe the ways in which a police officer may gain a suspicion of a drink or drug driving offence.”

Just out of interest, how do you propose one legislate exhaustively the grounds on which a police officer may “gain a suspicion of a drink or drug driving offence”?

“The colour of your car may well be reason enough for the authorities to force their way into your family home and demand that a swab be taken from your mouth.”

That is just plain alarmist. You’re talking about supposition, not suspicion. Say I have a red car. In my suburb there was a minor hit and run accident, the offending vehicle being red. Are you suggesting that the mere fact my car is red will allow the police to force their way into my house and demand from me a buccal sample? There is no way a court would entertain the submission that was ‘reasonable suspicion’.

miz 4:22 pm 13 Feb 16

I am greatly concerned about these new police powers. They could so easily be abused to gain entry to a POI’s premises without a warrant in an unrelated investigation.

I am also concerned about testing drivers for the presence of cannabis. Research indicates that it is possible to test positive from inhaling other people’s cannabis smoke:

http://www.newsweek.com/could-second-hand-pot-smoke-make-you-fail-marijuana-test-278913

And why the particular focus on cannabis? Surely other illicit substances (e.g. ice) are of greater concern. And what about the risks of driving while under the influence of prescription medications like Endone?

Kalliste 11:31 pm 12 Feb 16

wildturkeycanoe said :

What if the police saw you driving along at say 4:30PM, had some suspicions about your driving due to perhaps swerving for a dog off a leash [but the cops didn’t see the dog] and you were not drinking. Due to an unexpected call, the officers get side tracked but take your number plate details. An hour later, after you get home and sink a few scotch and cokes, they knock on the door and breath test you. Obviously you blow over the limit but you were never drink driving. How can you prove you were sober whilst on the road?
This is why I believe this law is absolute nonsense and should be repealed.

It does seem strange they have a 2 hour window they can do it. How do you prove you only started drinking once you got home in that timeframe?

It doesn’t effect me so much as someone that doesn’t drive and doesn’t drink much but I would be interested in finding out how they determine whether you were intoxicated at the time you were driving.

As far as the laws are concerned, the way I see it is that if a drug is illegal it doesn’t matter how much of it you have in your system when tested, it’s illegal to take said substance so you should be dealt with in whatever way the law suggests.

My other concern of all these arguments about the impairment levels of people using the substance they all refer to the lack of research that has been conducted around it. They all say “well obviously we shouldn’t be allowed to drive drunk, there’s been decades of research done about that!” so therefore we should wait for decades worth of research to be done before we decide that it’s ok to drive while you have an illegal substance in your system? I would prefer a low tolerance now while we believe it may cause issues and then change the law later when we know for sure.

As for prescription drugs, why not include them in the law? They all have warnings about not driving on the box, so if caught driving while using them why not have a penalty in place? Or do we not have enough research on that either?

wildturkeycanoe said :

Then more people will be forced off the roads because they are presumed to be unsafe. Where does it end?

Perhaps this is the governments goal. The more people who are considered to impaired to drive may be reduced to taking public transport, and we all know how they feel about that.

Also, I would have no problems if less idiots were on the roads. It doesn’t scare you that at any moment you could be driving next to someone who is drunk or taken a bunch of drugs (illegal or otherwise)?

farq 9:24 pm 12 Feb 16

The cynic in me feels it’s not coincidence that RDT is not testing for cocaine.

Targeting the drugs the drugs of choice of the middle and lower classes (irrespective of impairment) really shows their hand here. It’s just another front on the failed war on drugs.

wildturkeycanoe 6:40 pm 12 Feb 16

The argument against drink and drunk driving is a valid one, but proving someone is affected by drugs is not an easy task. I am certain that some drivers with 0.09 bac could have quicker reaction times and better depth perception than some tea-totalling elderly drivers. You cannot say that everyone has the same tolerance to prescription drugs, or even coffee and high sugar content beverages. Impairment can happen for many reasons but they seem to be targetting more causes of this, with little scientific evidence to back it up. Soon there will be testing for prescription drugs too, police access to medical records to weed out the pill poppers. Then more people will be forced off the roads because they are presumed to be unsafe. Where does it end?

henryans 1:02 pm 12 Feb 16

John, social feel good issues like gay marriage aren’t going to give kids jobs in the future, nor make this nation any stronger.
Put gay marriage to the people and let’s see how they decide.
All of this majority of Austrians want gay marriage is based off nothing but cooked statistics, where by they sell a targeted survey to 1000 people being reflective of the wider community.
Stopping this stupid, money pit of light rail is Zed priority, and good on him, considering we have the worst performing hospitals in the country and the highest cost of living.

Mr Hindsight 10:47 am 12 Feb 16

Steven,
You say that you’re against these “draconian laws” because they could be potentially open to exploitation but have you asked why people within the community still believe that it’s okay to drive under the influence of either drugs or alcohol?

Conditions of a driver’s licence is that you’re to be influence free when in the operation of a motor vehicle, which is supported overwhelming evidence with repeated studies locally and internationally (as an example – http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/attachments/338_ADFPRQ0310_www.pdf).

Drivers have a duty of care for anybody in the vehicle and to every other road user when holding a driver’s licence. When you obtain your licence you’re agreeing to these terms of use, a driver’s licence is not a right.

The only reason why draconian measures have to be introduced is because there are people still within our community feel that these rules don’t apply to them, for what ever reason. Unfortunately there are still enough idiots on the road without this demographic in the mix.

John Moulis 10:41 am 12 Feb 16

farq said :

So planning on voting #1 sex party this year.

Then everyone else.

Libs second last, Labor last.

Zed has committed political suicide in Canberra with his opposition to gay marriage and penalty rates in a left-leaning, highly unionised electorate. The Sex Party are worthy of the number one vote but The Greens are more firmly established. They should both exchange preferences then preference Labor putting the Libs last. The Libs – or more specifically the right wing junta controlling the Young Libs – brought all this on themselves by dumping the moderate Gary Humphries and replacing him with the hard right Seselja. If they hadn’t done that Gary would have been a shoo-in to be re-elected again.

henryans 10:32 am 12 Feb 16

The biggest problem is all the ignorance around these sort of debates, which you combine with emotions and what you get is hysterics.

Here is a actual study on impairment with under the influence of cannabis, something which Shane and co have never looked into.

“The study also found that analyzing a driver’s oral fluids can detect recent use of marijuana but is not a reliable measure of impairment.
“Everyone wants a Breathalyzer which works for alcohol because alcohol is metabolized in the lungs,” says Andrew Spurgin, a postdoctoral research fellow with the UI College of Pharmacy. “But for cannabis this isn’t as simple due to THC’s metabolic and chemical properties.”
http://now.uiowa.edu/2015/06/ui-studies-impact-marijuana-driving

As for property rights, we don’t have that in Australia, and especially in Canberra where its all crown leases. The cornerstone of liberty is property rights, we have neither, just a bunch of green social engineers invading every part of your life. Their are enough laws to deal with illegal acts, but all they do is implement more and more laws. When was the last time you read about laws beinbg repealed?

wildturkeycanoe 7:20 am 12 Feb 16

farq said :

So planning on voting #1 sex party this year.

Then everyone else.

Libs second last, Labor last.

Can we print out this post as “How to vote cards”?

farq 1:33 am 12 Feb 16

So planning on voting #1 sex party this year.

Then everyone else.

Libs second last, Labor last.

farq 1:29 am 12 Feb 16

100% behind on this one Steven.

Booking people for smoking dope days ago just because they are behind the wheel of a car is wrong on so many levels. It has nothing to do with driving, they might as well let police just swab everyone in the mall.

It’s just a war on dope smokers.

wildturkeycanoe 9:37 pm 11 Feb 16

What if the police saw you driving along at say 4:30PM, had some suspicions about your driving due to perhaps swerving for a dog off a leash [but the cops didn’t see the dog] and you were not drinking. Due to an unexpected call, the officers get side tracked but take your number plate details. An hour later, after you get home and sink a few scotch and cokes, they knock on the door and breath test you. Obviously you blow over the limit but you were never drink driving. How can you prove you were sober whilst on the road?
This is why I believe this law is absolute nonsense and should be repealed.

chiflean 6:10 pm 11 Feb 16

Could you not be charged with refusing to stop if you were flagged down by the police and instead chose to flee to your home? Isn’t that a reasonable enough offence in itself?

Testfest 2:02 pm 11 Feb 16

Ghettosmurf87 said :

I understand what you are saying Steven, but do you not also agree that the loophole whereby an impaired driver (be it alcohol or drugs) can make into their own home and therefore avoid being caught is a problem? Surely such a loophole encourages offenders that are close to home to refuse to pull over and instead seek out the safety of their home where they cannot then be charged for their crimes. This encouragement would no doubt increase the chances of an incident as an impaired driver seeks to flee the police.

Clearly your issue here is with drug-testing which does not have a threshold for impairment. This is a fair issue, but not one on which you should seek to prevent the closing of a loophole.

What I want to know is – how often does this actually happen? Are there any stats to show the number of times per year that a driver has refused to stop and fled into a house to avoid being drug tested?

Is there really no other existing law that can be used to cover this specific scenario?

Ghettosmurf87 12:49 pm 11 Feb 16

I understand what you are saying Steven, but do you not also agree that the loophole whereby an impaired driver (be it alcohol or drugs) can make into their own home and therefore avoid being caught is a problem? Surely such a loophole encourages offenders that are close to home to refuse to pull over and instead seek out the safety of their home where they cannot then be charged for their crimes. This encouragement would no doubt increase the chances of an incident as an impaired driver seeks to flee the police.

Clearly your issue here is with drug-testing which does not have a threshold for impairment. This is a fair issue, but not one on which you should seek to prevent the closing of a loophole.

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