Australian Medical Cannabis Users Say Our ‘Outdated’ Road Rules Are Putting Them At Risk

Medicinal cannabis patients say they are suffering from unjust laws that leave them in pain or at risk of losing licences, jobs and livelihoods.

The laws have come under scrutiny in the past, with the Australian Drug Foundation calling them “unjust”, and cries for changes are growing louder. Currently, a person with any THC in their system is considered inhibited and unable to drive, despite THC being detectable in the blood stream for up to a week after last use.

Patients say that they are being unfairly penalised despite not being high, and are urging governments to make changes that bring driving laws to bring into line with other drugs such as opiates and antidepressants.

Speaking to PEDESTRIAN.TV, Danny, who lives in Victoria and did not give his last name, said getting pulled over with weed in his system ruined his life.

“About five years ago the police picked me up, and I hadn’t smoked for a week so I thought I was alright,” he said.

“They took me back to the station and I lost my licence that day.”

He accused police of “picking on” cannabis patients and said that as a result of being pulled over he lost his job of 15 years.

“My whole life spiralled out of control after that. I couldn’t do anything.

“My daughter’s a dancer and I couldn’t take her to the dance studio, it stopped me taking her to big shows, I missed my dad’s funeral, heaps of stuff.

“It’s just not fair at all.”

He said it didn’t make sense banning medicinal cannabis patients from driving when other more traditional medications were legal to drive on.

Danny’s experience is not unique. A number of patients spoken to by PEDESTRIAN.TV said they experienced increased anxiety whenever they got in their cars, despite not being inebriated.

Their fears are backed up by research. According to data provided to PEDESTRIAN.TV by Montu, 86% of medicinal cannabis patients said they skipped doses in order to be able to drive.

Additionally, one in three patients have either lost their licence due to driving laws or know someone who has.

Newcastle patient Liam Hunter told PEDESTRIAN.TV that he had been using cannabis for many years to treat his depression and anxiety. He said without it, he had severe anxiety that impacted his ability to function.

“Every time I go out I’m thinking about getting pulled over, the minute a police car goes past me my anxiety goes through the roof,” he said.

“I know quite a few people who medicate their mental health, and they’ve lost their jobs, they’ve lost a lot of things.”

A third patient James, who declined to give his surname for fear of repercussions, said the current laws created enormous unnecessary stress and wanted to see them relaxed.

“I can sometimes work remotely but on days when I have to go in I have quite a bit of anxiety, especially if I’ve had some medication the night before,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“It makes me feel like a bit of a criminal.”

James takes cannabis for anxiety and physical pain caused by a motorcycle accident 15 years ago. He says he has pain down his shoulder that conventional medicine doesn’t treat.

“Some days I have to go to work and I won’t have any medication — I can’t risk a drug test.

“It puts my work in jeopardy and would be a huge financial burden. It’s a nightmare.”

Without his medicine, he says his chronic pain can flare up.

Australian Drugs Foundation (ADF) spokesperson Robert Taylor said the laws were “unjust”.

“People are prescribed other things such as benzodiazepines and opiates and can be driving impaired because there’s no roadside test for that. So we have this inequity in the law,” he told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

Taylor’s comments came after the Victorian government announced a study into the effects of medicinal weed on driving in October.

The trial would “investigate if there are conditions under which individuals who are prescribed medicinal cannabis, which contains delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can drive safely,” according to a statement provided by the Victorian government.

Although acknowledged as a step in the right direction, experts such as Taylor were worried it could take too long to deliver results, adding that until changes are brought about patients will continue to suffer.