New laws that will allow researchers to assess the impact medicinal cannabis has on motorists will be introduced to parliament on Tuesday, giving drivers with a prescription greater clarity about their fitness to drive.
In Victoria, it is illegal to drive with detectable levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the active ingredient in cannabis – due to concerns it impairs driving performance and can increase the risk of crashing.
To conduct more tests, the government must first amend transport legislation in Parliament to allow those affected by medicinal cannabis to get behind the wheel on closed roads, and be assessed.
The government has started work on a trial that is expected to pave the way for Victorians with a prescription to get behind the wheel when safe. It follows laws in Tasmania that allow drivers to present a medical defence for driving with the presence of THC in their body fluids.
In February, then-premier Daniel Andrews said the change, which would allow unimpaired Victorians to drive after taking medicinal cannabis, was a priority for the government.
While supportive of the reform, Legalise Cannabis MPs – who hold two crucial upper house seats – have raised concerns about a lengthy trial taking too long.
The minor party, which holds the balance of power in the upper house alongside the Greens – has introduced its own bill to the Legislative Council to allow prescribed users of medicinal cannabis to drive.
The Allan government will use the resumption of parliament on Tuesday to introduce the amendments, which it says is needed to deliver world-leading research. The Victorian opposition has previously revealed it supports a change to the law to allow drivers with a medicinal cannabis prescription to be allowed to drive in Victoria.
Roads and Road Safety Minister Melissa Horne said the new laws would enhance Victoria’s understanding of “how medicinal cannabis affects driving behaviour and informing future reform”.
As part of the research, the government will also be guided by the road safety outcomes in other countries to give Victorian bureaucrats access to the latest information and data on medicinal cannabis and driving.
According to the research published in the Australian Journal of General Practice in 2021, meta-analyses in this field suggest that cannabis-positive drivers are a greater risk but that the effects of THC on driving are “generally modest and appear similar to the effects of low-dose alcohol”.
Victoria became the first state to approve medicinal cannabis in 2016 but, unlike Tasmania, has not offered any protections for patients who are driving while unimpaired. Penalties for drug-driving include mandatory licence suspension.
There have been more than medicinal cannabis 100,000 prescriptions provided in Victoria between 2018 and July this year, according to data from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Source: The Age Licensed by Copyright Agency. You must not copy this work without permission. Designed to help you stay informed about the latest developments in the Australian medicinal cannabis landscape, this page includes curated articles covering key legislative changes, scientific research, and industry trends.