Laws Struggle to Keep Up with Medicinal Cannabis Use in Australia


Australian laws have not kept pace with the increasing use of legal medicinal cannabis in Australia and law reform is urgently needed, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“There are several laws and regulations in place that make it difficult for people to use medicinal cannabis to treat their pain,” said Mr Greg Barns SC, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA). “Some of the most concerning are the drug driving laws in place in most Australian states and territories.

“The current laws are simply unfair because they make it illegal to have any trace of cannabis in your system even if you have taken cannabis legally with a prescription and your driving is not impaired. Tasmania is currently the only state in which the use of legally prescribed cannabis can be used as a defence against a drug driving charge.”

This week (February 20 to 24) is the inaugural Australian Medicinal Cannabis Awareness Week.

“It’s been six years since medicinal cannabis became legal in Australia and we need to work more quickly to bring other laws in line,” said Mr Barns SC. “The fact that medicinal cannabis patients are not exempt from drug driving rules is based on the historical status of cannabis as a prohibited drug with no legitimate medical reason.

“Alcohol testing is based on science. It’s based on epidemiological studies over many years which showed that there is a safe limit. Drug driving laws are unfair because they are built on prejudice, not science.

“The current laws are causing serious harm to people who can lose their license and sometimes their jobs and independence, despite no evidence of impaired driving. Other people make a difficult decision to go without medicinal cannabis so they can drive, despite experiencing significant benefits from using the prescribed cannabis

“We urgently need to determine reliable ways to identify cannabis impairment on the roads and in the workplace, where the laws can also be unclear.

“Other countries already have systems in place that we can learn from and adopt. For example, in the US several states have laws that require police to conduct an impairment test on a driver, and others have legal limits that mean some tolerance for the presence of cannabis.

“We need to urgently reform the laws that are unjustly discriminating against medicinal cannabis users and bring our laws in line with the increasing use of prescribed cannabis.”

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