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Hemp Embassy slams plan to triple roadside drug tests in NSW

Members of Nimbi's Polite force outside Lismore court house last week protesting at the drug-driving laws. (Darren Coyne)

Members of Nimbin’s Polite force outside Lismore court house last week protesting at the drug-driving laws. (Darren Coyne)

By Darren Coyne

The Victorian Government is set to be the first state to approve medical cannabis as the New South Wales Government ramps up its attack on cannabis users with a tripling in roadside drug tests.

The Victorians are expected to announce today what law changes are necessary to legalise medicinal cannabis for use in exceptional circumstances.

Premier Daniel Andrews made a pre-election promise to bring about the changes, and asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to advise on how to amend laws so people could safely access quality medicinal cannabis.

Meanwhile in NSW, cannabis users can expect further harassment with NSW Police announcing they will be tripling the number of roadside drug tests to 97,000 tests annually, and rolling out dedicated drug-testing vehicles to every NSW region.

Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said the roadside drug testing regime was already having a massive impact on people who used cannabis as a medicine.

He’s not alone.

Steve Bolt, from Lismore law firm Bolt Findlay Lawyers, has told Echonetdaily that the local court system was becoming clogged with drivers picked up by the tests.

Mr Bolt said a recurring theme in court was drivers admitting to having smoked cannabis, but not for days.

Even local magistrates have questioned the effectiveness of the regime, pointing out that THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, stays in the system for days, if not weeks, with no evidence of impairment.

And while those convicted might be let off lightly with no conviction recorded if they have a good driving record, or with a short suspension, Mr Bolt said the worrying thing for many people was that a second detection could lead to a lengthy disqualification.

‘There is almost zero public transport in our area, and many of them live a distance from the main area where they work and take their kids to school,’ Mr Bolt told Fairfax media.

‘I think this testing is completely misguided and a waste of resources.’

Echonetdaily has previously reported that up to a third of ‘positive’ roadside tests conducted by police in recent operations had resulted in negative results once the driver was re-tested at the drug bus.

But more worrying for many drivers is the fact that police are tagging vehicles whose drivers have returned a positive result in the past.

Mr Balderstone said he had spoken to a number of people who had been pulled over numerous times since an initial test.

‘Once you’ve been busted once then you’re tagged and the next time you will lose your licence,’ he said.

‘The result of this is that otherwise law-abiding citizens are either turning to different drugs which cannot be detected, increasing their use of prescription drugs like codeine, or simply staying at home.’

He said the roadside test was for 10ng/ml THC whereas workplace testing, like a crane driver, was for 50ng/ml.

‘It’s like .05 becomes .01.

‘The police say because its illegal any amount is a bust and the charge is not about impaired driving at all, the court charge is THC in your system while driving.

He pointed out that Colorado and other American states with legal medical cannabis had seen a drop in car accidents, alcohol use, opiate overdoses and suicides.

‘They test for impairment by walking in line or whatever, easy to see if someone is impaired once they get out of the car.’

Medical cannabis tincture.

Medical cannabis tincture.

Mr Balderstone accused Premier Mike Baird of a ‘cunning political move’ in announcing medical cannabis trials earlier this year.

‘The problem with those trials is that they will take up to five years and in the meantime people are still desperate to access medical cannabis because they know it works,’ he said.

He said the Hemp Embassy at Nimbin continued to be inundated with calls from all over Australia from people desperate to get their hands on tinctures or oils to treat illnesses.

‘We’re talking people with cancer, or with children with autism or epilepsy, who have had no success with pharmaceutical drugs,’ he said.

‘These are the people who will get picked up in the nets being set for the drivers using things like Ice.

He said it was time for local police to make a stand and make their views known to their superiors.

‘I know for a fact that local cops are embarrassed because this testing has nothing to do with impairment,’ he said.

‘It’s just a rort and creates more disrespect for police.’

But senior police appear determined to continue with the testing regime.

Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, the commander of the Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, told Fairfax media that the tests were ‘a strong program aimed at deterring people who take illegal drugs from driving a motor vehicle’.

‘Between 2010 and 2014, 14 per cent of all fatalities involved a driver or rider with an illegal drug in their system,’ he said.

And Bernard Carlon, the acting executive director of the Centre for Road Safety, said drug-driving was a serious problem across the state, with one in three tests this year returning a positive result, compared to one in 300 alcohol tests.

‘This is why we’re stepping up the fight against drug-driving.’

This included tripling roadside drug testing to 97,000 tests annually, and rolling out dedicated drug-testing vehicles to every NSW region.

Mr Balderstone said it was time for NSW politicians to stop having a bet both ways on the cannabis issue.


7 responses to “Hemp Embassy slams plan to triple roadside drug tests in NSW”

  1. Kirsten Bindoff says:

    I can’t believe they are focusing on THC when Ice and meth-amphetamines and other assorted man made drugs, appear to be the real problem. When I was a pot smoker for 41 years I never had any driving issues in fact my driving record is perfectly clean (I still hold a GOLD LICENSE). Most pot smokers seem to be extra careful if anything.In my opinion, judgement does not seem to be impaired and it is a peaceful and passive drug. Unlike some I have already mentioned.They need to develop a test for those drugs not THC.
    Also Medicinal THC is so beneficial I cannot believe the powers that be are so blatantly ignoring the fact. SO many people could benefit from it .
    I suggest a mass migration to Victoria is in order

  2. Louise says:

    Shame on NSW with their outdated laws and twisted old fashioned thinking. As if this new tough regiment is going to really prevent any crimes and as Kirtsten stated, they should be focussing all their attention on the ever growing Ice problem that is messing up so many of our younger generation and their communities. It is also sad that this old fashioned state has not learned anything from the U.S. decriminalising marijuana. These clowns are the very same morons that get hemp mixed up with marijuana and ban that too. I wish there were more intelligent lawmakers out there as opposed to the narrow minded rednecks we are currently stuck with.

  3. Jerry Cook says:

    I agree with Kirsten, thanks.
    Do the police even realise they are supporting opposition profits only, and that their driving stops have nothing at all to do with impairment? These stops should be completely illegal…this is the only country on planet to do these types of stops.
    These stops are a blatant insane injustice for those opposition profits, nothing more, without even having a based search warrant or honest reason to stop people for use of this herb.. Studies have shown drivers drive better under its influence, the opposite of and very unlike booze & the rest. This research includes driving Insurance companies in the USA.

    The law itself is the real crime, as it imposes suffering, even death, on people who use this plant to improve their lives..yes..thats provable!

    The stops prove nothing but how insane authority gets for big biz opposition profits only, as idiotic as can be. Police have much better things to do.

    This plant should be in full normal use in many ways. Dispensaries would be a good way to perfect good use. Why do we have to be so backwards & destructive, as this article shows…oh thats right, again, for opposition profits, not for what helps so many people.

    Opposition to being fully legal for many uses is only based on ignorance &/or being bought off for opposing profits, banks/cartels, big pharma, alcohol, & tobacco, all killers, while this plant is not toxic, has not & cannot kill.
    The law is a flat out lie, period. Stopping people for that is just ridiculous!!

    Toxic substances get tossed out of the body as soon as possible. This plant remains, as it is not toxic and helps the body through our natural Endocannabinoid systems. Our bodies like it. Its in mothers baby milk, to help the newborn go the best, for instance.

    Legal approval of whats very harmful is ok…but whats helpful is illegal? Absolutely insane. For those opposing profits.
    Please people, wake up, do some study..plenty research is available & does not have to be started by the state govt to have the proven info.
    People’s lives are at stake right now, and waiting for legal use law makes many suffer & die for profits to a few big corporate people. Are you kidding? WTF!

    Sorry, I don’t like to see so many attacked, hurt & killed for a few profiteers & the ignorant. Stop the police & their insanity for others insanity & greed, NOW. For the police..check out LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition…of Cannabis. Wake up and save lives rather than hurting them for idiocy.

  4. Peace Freeborn says:

    I wonder, of the 14% of all fatalities involving a rider or driver with illicit drugs in their system, how many of that number were at fault beyond the presence in their system of tested for drugs?
    How many were related to speeding?
    How many related to tiredness?
    How many to plain bad drivers?
    I wonder also during that same time frame, what the percentage is for drivers with alcohol in their system who are involved in fatalities?
    Approximately 13% of drivers killed in the same period were not wearing seat belts. How likely is it that somebody who died because they didn’t wear a seat belt also had traces of drugs in their system…
    Statistical manipulation to justify an unfair testing regime is more transparent than the reasoning behind the policy.

  5. Rafjee says:

    If THC is not linked to driving impairment, then what is the justification to test drivers for its use? It means that it has nothing to do with driving and that next, anyone walking in public could be targeted for a random drug test, without showing any outward signs of being under influence of anything, let alone being a danger to society.
    We are all going to be tested, intimidated and infringed upon our privacy, just because of the mere existence of a plant, that has been deemed illegal.
    I can envision, in the near future, towns with a permanent presence of cops and sniffer dogs. Oh wait forget about the sniffer dogs…. they don’t need any probable cause, anyway!

  6. Annie says:

    Even with all the scientific research, academics, health care professionals.. All the people who are smart enough to understand that the war on drugs started because of power/money hungry politicians know that this is complete bullshit. The war on drugs is not real. People have used illicit drugs for literally tens of thousands of years! You ain’t gonna stop them now! And to think they can just shows me what a bunch of fuckwits they are.

    The ads the govt sends out, the way they portray police on the media… they’ve created a society where they’ve perpetuated a sense of fear, as well as the image of police being “cunts”. They make it out as though it’s them vs us. They literally want to portray that image to every citizen in NSW!

    The most recent ad I watched had literally NO useful information in it.. The message I got was “NSW is increasing drug tests… YOU WILL BE FOUND. YOU WILL BE DRUG TESTED. YOU WILL NOT KNOW WHAT FOR. THERE WILL BE NO MERCY”. That was basically a disguised threat to the whole of NSW… And you expect me to call the same people when I need help? Knowing they will not listen to me regardless of my circumstances.. fuck no.

    The only statistic that they had to defend their actions was the pathetic “14% of fatalities had drivers with a drug in their system”. Where did this statistic come from? Did you ascertain 100% WITHOUT REASONABLE DOUBT that it was attributed to the drugs? Did you go through every case individually and determine whether the concentration of whatever in their blood contributed to the fatality? No. Because cops and politicians don’t give a shit about that.

    They have virtually every piece of evidence that discredits the use of drug tests on roads… but they’ve selectively chosen to ignore it. They have no solid evidence to support what they’re doing either. So why?

    $$$$$$$$ because they’re the best at manipulating the system for their own personal gain. Oh how beautiful this whole ordeal will look in their bank accounts! $$$$$$$$$$$$$

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