Medicinal cannabis users to be captured by new harsh South Australian drug driving laws

This week, the South Australian Labor government has given South Australia Police the power to immediately strip motorists of their licence upon detection of prescribed drugs, which will affect patients using medicinal cannabis.

Thousands of patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis by their General Practitioner are in the firing line, with no consideration given to these South Australians who have been able to access medicinal cannabis as a treatment option since 2016.

To address this, I am introducing the Statutes Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis Defence) Bill 2023 to the Legislative Council next week.

My Bill allows for a complete defence for medicinal cannabis users when THC is detected in the person’s fluid or blood when:
• The person has a valid doctor’s prescription for the medicine containing THC;
• The person is not involved in dangerous or reckless driving; and
• An officer cannot establish impairment in the person.

My Bill is based on existing rules in Tasmania, which allow for the detection of THC at the roadside for medicinal cannabis patients so long as the motorist is not impaired while driving.

South Australia does not currently have a restricted list of medical conditions for which medicinal cannabis is prescribed. It is rightfully left to doctors and patients to establish the best treatment options. Medicinal cannabis can be accessed for conditions including paediatric and adult epilepsies, multiple sclerosis, and various types of pain, and to treat side effects from chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS therapy.

Before Monday, a positive roadside drug test would result in a driver retaining their licence until its suspension by a Magistrate.

Law-abiding medicinal cannabis patients now face heightened anxiety when getting behind the wheel as the South Australian government threatens them with immediate loss of licence with no regard to their capacity to drive. Not to mention the isolation that will add to our mental health crises for those too scared to drive while undergoing treatment.

The government needs to support my common-sense Bill to ensure patients are not stripped of their licence through no wrongdoing of their own.

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