Chibo Mertiineit is quite right, the roadside drug test is not a test for impairment. (Letters, Feb 17) Indeed the roadside drug test can detect minute traces of three popular but prohibited drugs, namely cannabis, ecstasy and speed.
Minute traces of these drugs can remain in the body for hours, days, even weeks after ingestion and long after any effect has worn off. This is why many people are unsuspectingly falling foul of the roadside drug testing regime.
Many times they do not even realise they have traces in their system until the test returns positive, and it can be a devastating experience for someone who has never before been in trouble with the law and only occasionally uses drugs.
But you don’t even have to be an occasional drug user to test positive at a roadside drug test, since trace amounts can be passively inhaled or in other ways unwittingly ingested, for example by spiked drink or food. In such cases a driver may be completely unaware that they could register positive at a roadside drug test.
The police and politicians claim the roadside drug testing regime is about road safety, but clearly it is criminalising drivers who are not drug impaired at the time they are tested. Furthermore, there are no scientific or statistically valid studies that quantify and calibrate the level and nature of impairment caused by varying doses of the proscribed substances.
No doubt these drugs cause impairment above a certain dose, as do most drugs, but the current testing regime does not test for impairment. This point needs to be repeated often and loudly. It is not a test for impairment and it is therefore not a matter of road safety.
So what is the real reason for the roadside drug test? I suspect it’s a combination of ignorance, prejudice, drug war zealotry and prohibition propaganda.
Road safety is an important issue, but so too is social justice. As citizens and individuals, we have a basic human right to privacy and security of person, and we have the common law privilege against self-incrimination. These rights are enshrined in domestic and international law and cannot be violated willy-nilly by the state.
But these days, due to the appalling contempt for human rights and civil liberties exhibited by the authorities, few people even realise we have rights.
In fact I’ve been told by a police officer that I don’t have any rights. This is the sort of the attitude that prevails in the police force and the polity at large.
These days, I feel a bit like Julian Assange, living under self-imposed house arrest for fear of persecution if I go out, even though I haven’t done anything more than mind my own business.
If anyone else feels this way and would like to talk about it, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
John Scrivener, Main Arm