Drivers in South Australia who return a positive roadside drug test could lose their licence immediately under proposed new legislation.

While SA road safety minister Vincent Tarzia told The Advertiser the proposed bill is aimed at making the state’s roads safer, the Australian Lawyers Association (ALA) has slammed the move. 

ALA spokesperson Greg Barns

Currently, drivers in SA who return a positive roadside drug test may continue driving for 28 days while their oral fluid is forensically analysed. Under the new proposals, SA police will be able to immediately revoke the driver’s licence or determine whether further testing is required. 

ALA spokesperson Greg Barns said the proposed legislation is unfair to drivers with a legal cannabis prescription with no evidence of impaired driving.

He added: “These proposed new laws in South Australia are probably the worst we have seen in the road safety space anywhere in Australia in recent years.

“Drivers who take opioids or other prescription medication do not find themselves in court or risk losing their licence, and neither should drivers who have taken a prescribed and legal dose of cannabis.

“There is no scientific support for this proposed law change. Cannabis is a legally recognised prescribed medication and the law needs to acknowledge this to stay relevant. This law will make cannabis the only prescription medication that excludes an individual from driving completely.”

SA Police figures show positive results at roadside drug tests increased from 2,284 in 2011 (a rate of 1 in 19) to 5,500 (1 in 6) in the past year.

Tarzia added: “This nation-leading road safety measure takes drug drivers off the streets the second they test positive for illegal substances.

“We cannot forget driving is a privilege, not a right. The government is committed to ensuring every motorist makes it home safe.” 

However, Barns said: “With drugs such as cannabis there is not a clear link between a positive test and adverse driving, particularly given that minute levels of the drug can be detected.”

Research from the Lambert Initiative has found that patients who consume THC may be safe to drive within hours of consumption while groups such as Drive Change are lobbying to reform unfair driving laws for legal medicinal cannabis users.

In February the Road Traffic (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill 2021 was introduced into the SA parliament by Tammy Franks.

“This Bill acknowledged the reality of drug-driving testing and should be supported,” added Barns.

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Hannah Adler

Hannah is a communications professional and early-career researcher in the disciplines of health communication and health sociology. She is a PhD student at Griffith University currently writing a...

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