South Australian Medical Cannabis Patients Could Be Banned From Driving

Driving in South Australia - medical cannabis
Image: CC BY-SA 2.5

South Australia’s Police Minister has said some South Australians using cannabis medicines won’t be able to get behind the wheel without risking their driver’s licence.

Just to be clear, Police Minister Peter Malinauskas’s comments appear to be in relation to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive compound in cannabis; rather than CBD (cannabidiol), which has no psychotropic effect and is not tested for.

Minister Malinauskas has been quoted by The Advertiser as saying patients “would need to ensure that the THC is no longer present in their system prior to driving”.

“The screening devices used are able to detect THC for several hours after use,” he said.

The problem is if THC isn’t active in a patient’s system then the therapeutic effect may not be either, leaving the patient caught between a rock and a hard place.

The comments came during a Parliamentary debate on new laws that would increase penalties for drink and drug driving. The proposed laws would result in a three-month licence disqualification for those caught drug-driving  for a first offence and stiffer penalties for subsequent offences.

Currently in South Australia, patients are able to access cannabis based medicines as a result of federal legislative changes that came into effect in November 2016 – in theory. The reality is given the convoluted state of rules and regulations, very few can, even after changes in state laws in April simplified things – but not by much.

Patients must obtain Commonwealth approval via a medical practitioner approved under the Special Access Scheme, Authorised Prescriber Scheme, or Clinical Trial Schemes. The treating specialist needs to identify an appropriate product, justify its use and obtain TGA approval.

Additionally, a section 18A authority from the State government is required after 2 months of treatment, or before commencing treatment where the person is already prescribed a Schedule 8 drug. The exceptions to the latter are if a patient is aged 70 years or older or is a Notified Palliative Care Patient.

Further information on the status of patient access to cannabis medicines in South Australia can be viewed here.