The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) has accepted that a medical defence could be considered for drivers who test positive for the presence of THC.

Responding to a government consultation paper on the state’s drug-driving laws, the RACQ said an escape from prosecution could be provided for motorists who fail a roadside test but who hold a valid prescription for medicinal cannabis.

However, it stressed that a driver found to be under the influence of THC, whether they hold a prescription or not, should be charged.

Noting the lack of scientific consensus on blood THC impairment levels and no established link between levels of THC in saliva and impairment, the motoring organisation said a medical defence “could be introduced while further research on the impairment issue is conducted”.

“This defence, if considered further, should only apply provided that the driver is using the prescribed medicines as directed,” RACQ said in its submission. “[We] agree that this…should only apply to the presence-based offence, and that even with a prescription, a driver who tested positive and is adversely affected by cannabis containing THC, or where there is evidence of impairment or unsafe driving, should be charged with driving under the influence of the drug.”

The organisation also called for the state government to investigate compulsory drug saliva testing at the roadside following any crash. It said the high number of positive tests for THC warranted such an approach.

“It is important that Queensland increases the amount of roadside drug tests undertaken and that we can more accurately measure the involvement of the drug [cannabis] in crashes of severities other than fatalities,” it said in its submission.

The consultation paper said of 52,000 roadside tests conducted each year since 2015, one in five returned positive results. Of those, 6o% tested positive for THC.

Government-sourced statistics also showed that of 62 drug-driving deaths in 2022, 83% of drivers involved in fatal accidents tested positive for THC.

The Queensland Government is expected to report on its drug-driving review before the end of the year.  

Steve has reported for a number of consumer and B2B titles over a journalism career spanning more than three decades. He is a regulator contributor to health journal, The Medical Republic, writing on...

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