Greens MLC David Shoebridge will be conducting a forum at a Lismore hotel this evening about the controversial drug-driving tests that have been sweeping through the region.
Mr Shoebridge, and Southern Cross University academic Aidan Ricketts, will be conducting the forum, and Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith will also be attending.
The tour includes a visit to the Lismore Local Court where just last week a case was thrown out by the local magistrate in a case where a driver was charged with drug driving having consumed cannabis a full nine days before testing positive in a roadside drug test.
Prior to tonight’s forum, Mr Shoebridge will be attending Lismore Local Court, where more than 50 people a week have been attending to face drug-driving charges.
He then plans to meet with local lawyers to discuss their experience in the courts.
‘Residents from right across the northern rivers have contacted my office and local Ballina MP Tamara Smith to raise their concerns about the targeting of the local community with invasive and arbitrary roadside drug testing,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘The roadside drug testing program increasingly looks like a targeted war on just a handful of illegal drugs, rather than a serious road safety campaign.’
Critics of the testing regime have argued that prescription drugs and cocaine, which is more commonly used by more affluent people, are not subject to the same testing as cannabis, methamphetamine and ecstasy.
They also maintain that drivers are returning positive tests days, and even weeks, after smoking cannabis but are still being found guilty because the tests do not check for impairment in any way.
Just last week, magistrate David Heilpern dismissed a charge against a driver who told the court he did not knowingly have cannabis in his system. The driver had been told by a police officer during a test that he would be clear within days, but the driver was apprehended again nine days after first testing positive.
Echonetdaily has also reported previously that during one police operation, more than a third of northern rivers drivers who tested positive to roadside drug tests were deemed ‘false positives’ after re-testing again in mobile buses.
In other cases, an Ocean Shores man with sensitivity to chemicals claimed to have an adverse reaction after being drug-swabbed, but police officers were unable to tell him what chemicals were used in the testing devices. Another man was suspended from work after he was disqualified from driving, despite not being informed by police that he had tested positive and a court date had been set.
‘Roadside drug testing needs to be drastically changed to test for all the drugs that are commonly found to impair driving, legal and illegal, and to test at levels that are known to impair driving,’ Mr Shoebridge said.
Following tonight’s forum at the Tatts Hotel in Keen Street Lismore, which begins at 6.30pm, Mr Shoebridge will attend a question and answer session at the Nimbin Town Hall tomorrow from 11am to 1pm.