Medical Cannabis Driving Ban In SA Challenged

South Australia - Driving And THC
Image:  Tim Tim Timmeee, CC BY 3.0

What is essentially a ban on South Australian drivers using medical cannabis before getting behind the wheel has been successfully challenged by the Dignity Party.

In late June, we reported South Australia’s Police Minister stated some medical cannabis patients won’t be able to drive without risking their driver’s licence. Currently, there is no provision in SA law protecting these patients from prosecution after testing positive to THC.

On July 4, the Minister again expressed his concerns about patients who use cannabis medicines containing THC being on the roads.

“We do know that excessive levels of THC do cause impairment—that is a medically accepted fact,” said Mr. Malinauskas.  He said 66 drivers and riders were killed on South Australian roads in the last 5 years and of those 66, 48 tested positive to having THC in their system. 

However, the level of THC wasn’t reported (as the old saying goes – the dose makes the poison) and those figures also include cannabis either on its own or in combination with other drugs or alcohol. Minister Malinauskas wasn’t able to provide a breakdown.

Mr. Malinauskas urged MP’s not to support an amendment proposed by Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent that would provide a defence for users of approved medical cannabis products in Statutes Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving) Bill 2017

The amendment read in part:

(1) In proceedings for a drug driving offence involving THC , it is a defence if the defendant proves that , at the time of the alleged offence —

(a) the defendant had a medical condition or a disability requiring the defendant to use an ap proved medical cannabis product; and

(b) the defendant was in possession of a certificate given by a legally qualified medical practitioner certifying that , in the medical practitioner’s opinion , the defendant is medically fit to drive a vehicle while using an approved medical cannabis product.

A majority of Upper House MPs supported the amendment (12 – 9).

Ms. Vincent stated the vote was a win for drivers who use legal medical cannabis in SA.

“Medical cannabis is now a legal drug treatment used for a range of health conditions and disabilities, and it is important that our driving laws and licence requirements need to recognise this,” said Ms. Vincent.

“If doctors can prescribe a medical treatment, and issue a certificate saying that the person is okay to drive while using it, then it is logical that we would allow people to drive while using that prescribed medical treatment.”

Ms. Vincent is urging the government to reconsider their position and vote for what she says is a “common sense change”.