The law has not kept pace with the increasing use of medicinal cannabis in Australia and reform is urgently needed, says Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesperson Greg Barns.
There are several laws and regulations in place that make it difficult for people to use medicinal cannabis to treat their pain. Some of the most concerning are the drug-driving laws in place in most Australian states and territories.
The current laws are simply unfair because they make it illegal to have any trace of cannabis in your system even if you have taken cannabis legally with a prescription and your driving is not impaired.
Tasmania is currently the only state in which the use of legally prescribed cannabis can be used as a defence against a drug-driving charge.
It’s been seven years since medicinal cannabis became legal in Australia and we need to work more quickly to bring other laws in line.
The fact that medicinal cannabis patients are not exempt from drug-driving rules is based on the historical status of cannabis as a prohibited drug with no legitimate medical reason.
Alcohol testing is based on science. It’s based on epidemiological studies over many years which showed that there is a safe limit. Drug-driving laws are unfair because they are built on prejudice, not science.
The current laws are causing serious harm to people who can lose their licence and sometimes their jobs and independence, despite no evidence of impaired driving.
Others make a difficult decision to go without their medicine so they can drive, despite experiencing significant benefits from using the prescribed cannabis.
We urgently need to determine reliable ways to identify cannabis impairment on the roads and in the workplace, where the laws can also be unclear.
Other countries already have systems in place that we can learn from and adopt. For example, in the US several states have laws that require police to conduct an impairment test on a driver, and others have legal limits that mean some tolerance for the presence of cannabis.
We need to urgently reform the laws that are unjustly discriminating against medicinal cannabis users and bring our laws in line with the increasing use of prescribed cannabis.