The medicinal cannabis industry will struggle to develop unless there is widespread reform to drug driving laws in Australia, a panel discussion has heard.

Former magistrate David Heilpern told a seminar that medicinal cannabis containing THC is simply not a viable option for the vast majority of people if it risks a driving ban and criminal record.

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The danger is particularly acute for those living in rural and regional areas who rely on their own transport, he said.

Heilpern insisted the laws will deter people from taking cannabis and damage the growth of the industry.

The comments came during a panel discussion hosted by Health House which examined the contentious laws and the attitudes of police and politicians.

“I don’t believe you can have a successful medicinal cannabis industry or medicinal cannabis practice while you have the drug laws as they are,” he said. “What you are saying to every single person who is using anything other than CBD oil is ‘sorry, you can’t drive’.

“In rural and regional Australia that means no access to their jobs, no access to their doctors… it’s an impossibility for the vast majority of people to be without their licence… and I can’t see how the industry can succeed in the long term while these silly drug driving laws are in place.”

Heilpern dismissed as a “myth” claims that road safety is the motivator for the recent increase in drug drive testing, arguing there would have been a “massive reduction” in road accidents and deaths had that been the case.