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Parliament to Debate Fair Drug Driving Laws for Medicinal Cannabis Patients

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
11 October 2022

The NSW Upper House is set to debate the Greens’ bill to amend the end the unfair prosecution of medicinal cannabis patients by giving them a defence against drug driving charges if they have taken their medicine as prescribed and are not impaired. 

The bill was introduced into the Legislative Council on 17 November 2021 by Cate Faehrmann, Greens MP and spokesperson for Drug Law Reform and Harm Reduction and was referred to the Upper House Law and Justice Committee which reported on 11 August 2022

The bill will be debated in the NSW Upper House on the afternoon of Wednesday 12 October. 

“The state’s unfair drug driving laws are punishing medicinal cannabis patients for driving even though they are not impaired,” said Cate Faehrmann. 

“Many patients turn to cannabis because it is the only medicine that brings them relief from conditions like PTSD or chronic pain. These patients are then forced to choose between driving or using this medicine. 

“The law should have been reformed as soon as medical cannabis was legalised. Instead, medicinal cannabis patients have spent six years facing discrimination.

“Other jurisdictions have successfully allowed cannabis patients to drive. It’s time for NSW to change these absurd and unfair laws and end the persecution of innocent people. I urge all parties to support this sensible bill,” said Cate Faehrmann.

Background

The law as it currently stands in NSW means medicinal cannabis patients risk testing positive to THC and losing their licence for 3 months, but patients who use morphine are provided a medical defence against testing positive while driving, under section 111 of the Road Transport Act 2013.

The United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, Ireland and New Zealand make a medical defence available to patients with THC in their system provided they are not impaired and are using the drug as directed. 

Roadside drug tests are incredibly sensitive. Patients can test positive 24 hours or more after they have consumed cannabis, well after any impairment has worn off. 

The committee heard evidence that increased crash risk associated with being intoxicated with cannabis was 40% while driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 increased crash risk by 100% and driving a motorbike increased the risk by 3,000%.  

Fresh Leaf Analytics, the leading supplier of data on the medicinal cannabis industry in Australia, found that the number of active medical patients had grown from 30,000 at the end of 2020 to 70,000 in September 2021.

**Medicinal cannabis patients who have been impacted by the drug driving laws are available for interview on request. 

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Cate Faehrmann
NSW Greens MP
11 October 2022
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