The campaign to change drug-driving laws which penalise medicinal cannabis patients in Australia received a boost last night after deputy speaker Llew O’Brien rallied to the cause in the federal parliament.

O’Brien, the Liberal National member for Wide Bay, Queensland, told MPs while as a former police officer he understood the devastation that driving while impaired by drugs has on the community, the current laws around medicinal cannabis are not fit for purpose.

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He said he had been made aware of the health benefits of prescription cannabis for certain conditions and had “witnessed the real and serious repercussions that a loss of a driver’s licence can have on a person.

“It can cause isolation and cut them off from vital services,” he added.

“In Australia, we have a dichotomy, where thousands of patients are finding relief due to the introduction of medical cannabis as a result of the work of advocates, researchers and government but, in finding this relief, these people discover a new problem… [they] are not allowed to drive under state and territory laws.”

O’Brien described former New South Wales magistrate and Drive Change campaigner David Heilpern’s experience in enforcing the current laws, where people who had consumed cannabis and driven a car many days later would front the court and lose their licence.

“Often, as a result of this, they would lose jobs and, eventually, relationships.”

O’Brien: existing laws a major barrier for patients

He said drivers with traces of THC in their system, who may have no impairment and present no risk to themselves or other road users, still face prosecution.