By Darren Coyne
A Casino family man has been suspended from work and can’t afford to buy Christmas presents for his children after testing positive, then negative, for cannabis during a roadside test in August.
Adam Smith, a disability support worker who lives on a rural property 22 kilometres from Casino, is a 38-year-old father of two children, with a clean driving record and no criminal history.
But all that changed on 2 August when he was pulled over for a random drug test while driving to work at 7.45am in the morning.
‘My first test was positive for cannabis and I was put under arrest and sent to the mobile drug van,’ Mr Smith said.
‘In the van I was tested again and questioned by police. The second test returned a negative result.
Echonetdaily has previously reported that around a third of positive roadside tests were then deemed negative once the apprehended person was re-tested in the drug-testing van.
Those results have prompted activists to question the reliability of the testing regime, while local magistrates have questioned the effectiveness of the regime because the tests do not indicate actual driving impairment.
In Mr Smith’s case, police told him that he was ok to drive away.
‘The police told me that I was not under any DUI charge and told me my sample would be sent to a lab in Sydney for further testing and I should hear something within eight weeks.
‘The police took my mobile number and said they would contact me if the final test was positive.
‘I was also given a pink piece of paper that clearly states the test was negative and in fine print says “A member of the NSW Police Force will advise you if the result of the analysis indicates the presence of a drug/s as defined under the Act”.
And while he thought the matter was behind him, sixteen weeks later he received a penalty notice in the mail informing him that he had been fined $461.
His lawyer contacted the court and was told that Mr Smith had been fined and suspended from driving for three months at a court hearing that he was unaware of.
‘Apparently I was supposed to go to court on 23 November 2015. I was unaware of this as I had not received any letters or phone calls from either the police or the court. I had missed the chance to defend myself,’ Mr Smith said.
‘Because I had no correspondence advising my licence was suspended, I had been driving around not knowing that I had a suspended licence.
‘If I had been involved in an accident during this time I would have been uninsured.’
Mr Smith said once he was informed that his licence was suspended, he contacted his work to advise that he would be unable to attend work due to the licence suspension.
The next day he received a letter from his work saying he had been suspended without pay for breaching his work contract.
Adding further confusion to the situation, on Tuesday this week Mr Smith contacted the Roads and Maritime Authority and was told that his licence was still valid and that his record was clean.
But on Wednesday he received a notice from the court advising him of his fine and licence suspension.
He must now wait until next Tuesday to go before the court to apply to have the conviction annulled.
Whether that happens or not, the damage has already been done.
‘I have lost thousands of dollars in lost income, I am forced to halt mortgage repayments and delay payment of other bills, my reputation at work has been tarnished, and am too scared to drive my car despite the RMS saying my licence is currently valid and I am ok to drive,’ he said.
‘I am stranded at home, 22kms from the nearest town and have been experiencing much anxiety and depression due to this situation.
‘I can’t afford to pay for Christmas presents for my children.’
Nimbin’s Hemp Embassy president Michael Balderstone said Mr Smith’s case was not isolated.
He said the Embassy received calls regularly from people being charged with having THC in their system, despite not having smoked or consumed cannabis for days, if at all.
The Hemp Embassy is organising a protest outside the Lismore Police Station for 21 December, and Mr Smith said he would be attending to share his experience.