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Byron Shire
November 27, 2022

Random drug testing is a scam on behalf of big pharma

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Once again Byron shire has seen mass Random Drug Testing (RDT) of drivers. The claim by the NSW government and the NSW Police is that it is done for road safety. It is a lie. Of all the drugs, legal and illegal, commonly taken only three drugs are tested, cannabis, ecstasy and ice.

I’m not going to discuss ‘ice’ here.

It is a nasty drug that produces psychosis and extreme violence and no one should be taking it, driving or otherwise.

But what about ecstasy and cannabis?

According to the Australian Government Department of Health, the major effect of ecstasy is that users ‘may feel more alert, energetic and affectionate’.

Logically anything that increases a driver’s alertness and energy would be beneficial. Coupled with an increased feeling of ‘affection’, it would also reduce the incidence of ‘road rage’.

In short, ecstasy is not detrimental to driving but beneficial.

In any case, ecstasy is quickly eliminated from the body and seldom shows up on RDT.

And is therefore less of an issue than cannabis which can be detected in the body long after the effect has worn off, in some cases for weeks.

According to  the Australian Government Department of Health , the major effects of cannabis is that users generally feel ‘more relaxed, happy and more talkative. It can also increase appetite’.

Again, nothing that would make a driver more dangerous.

In fact, the most extensive research done into the effect of cannabis on driving was undertaken by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (DOT HS 812 117 – Feb 2015) and they did not find ‘a significant increase in levels of crash risk associated with the presence of drugs (cannabis)’.

According to recent research by the University of Colorado, using statistics provided by the states where medical cannabis is legal, ‘legalisation (of cannabis) is associated with a nearly 9 percent decrease in traffic fatalities, most likely to due to its impact on alcohol consumption’.

So why are the NSW government and NSW Police targeting cannabis and ecstasy at RDT?

Obviously, it has nothing to do with road safety.

If it was, then RDT would be testing for the drugs that do have a proven detrimental effect on driving such as tranquilizers, chemical stimulants, and drugs against common diseases whose side effects include drowsiness, sleepiness and impairment of sensomotoric functions (esp. delayed reaction and inadequate coordination); etc.

The answer is money.

Cannabis represents an enormous threat to the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.

So much so that in the 21 American states that have decriminalised personal use of cannabis, the anti-cannabis argument has been almost exclusively funded by the alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries and the police associations and owners of private prisons who make money out of prosecuting and jailing cannabis users.

Look at the facts; cannabis is an easily grown, non toxic plant with extraordinary medicinal properties.

Part of the current media and government attention cannabis is receiving is because the grandparents of an ill child donated millions of dollars to cannabis research after cannabis relieved their grand daughter’s life threatening epileptic seizures.

And quick look at the internet will come up with literally dozens of diseases where cannabis has proved to be superior and in many the only medicine to offer relief without side effects.

Thousands of Australians are using cannabis and risking jail to relieve and cure physical and psychological diseases, including the symptoms created by ineffectual drugs that haven’t helped.

Decriminalised cannabis is a disaster for the pharmaceutical industry and will have a detrimental effect on the profits of the alcohol and tobacco industries.

So they give hundreds of thousands of dollars to our corrupt self serving politicians and political parties to fight cannabis whilst they try and find a way to take it over.

And we get dozens of police with dogs and testing kits trying to intimidate and punish those people who would rather feel ‘affectionate’ than violent, pain free than nauseous and ‘happy’ rather than depressed.

There is not a shred of science or evidence that supports RDT for cannabis, it is bullshit.

Unfortunately the men and women of the NSW police lack the courage to tell their corrupt political overlords that they will no longer take part in this hypocritical farce.

They should be telling their union, we’ve got better things to do than persecute sick people and victimless crimes, we didn’t become police to bully people for corrupt politicians, we joined to protect people.

Derek Harper, Billinudgel

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  1. Do you have any evidence to support your claim that alcohol and tobacco industries?- I have never heard of such bribery and surely, like any case of corrupt conduct by members of our parliaments – it would be front page news if it occurred. And why would they – surely the alcohol and tobacco companies would see them selves as well placed to move into legalised marijuana sales (do most Australians grow their own tomatoes or brew their own beer?). As so often I read in these columns you are attributing the actions of government to some nefarious profit making entity rather accepting that the authorities at this point accept the general research view which is that marijuana does impair driving. In respect of the US study you refer to, Compton and Berning also referred to other studies that show impaired performance and cautioned: “While the findings of this case control study were equivocal with regard to the crash risk associated with drug use by drivers, these results do not indicate that drug use by drivers is risk-free”. It is also ridiculous to read comments suggesting the police should have the “courage” to stand up to politicians. It is not for the police to make judgements about the laws they enforce and how would they be qualified to do so? Even if they accepted your conspiracy theory, police like other public servants are required by law to follow lawful directions – if they did not wish to they would have to resign. In respect of medical marijuana, if it were to be legalised users would be in the same situation as others who takes a medicine that is considered to impair driving The Northern Rivers has an appalling death and injury toll. Unless there is widespread acceptance internationally that the use of cannabis is safe we would be very foolish indeed not to continue randomly testing for it, to support the police in what is unpopular work, and to continue to campaign against the acceptance of driving under the influence of drugs that appears to be too common in the area.

    • Your reply is full of inaccuracies. There is no “general research view that marijuana does impair driving”. The fact that Compton and Berning say that their results “do not indicate that drug use by drivers is risk-free” is as relevant as saying their results “do not indicate that driving without using drugs is risk-free”. Driving is essentially risky whether you take drugs or not. As for your claim that “it is not for the police to make judgements about the laws they enforce and how would they be qualified to do so”, it is demonstrably untrue. Police pick and choose what laws they’re going to enforce. Last week in Melbourne 600 people gathered in Flagstaff Gardens to publicly consume cannabis and police didn’t make any arrests. Why? Because they said it was a waste of resources. In fact, the Police Minister Lisa Neville said she supported the police approach, “I back their judgment when it comes to how best to use their powers and when they need to intervene,” she said. Likewise your claim that “if cannabis were to be legalised users would be in the same situation as others who takes a medicine that is considered to impair driving” is again demonstrably untrue. RDT’s do not test for many drugs that impair driving and nor are they tested for when blood samples are tested after a serious accident. And finally, the road toll in Australia this year is 1/3 of the road toll it was in 1986 per 100,000 people. Can you think of any other crime statistic that has plunged so far? And please don’t tell me t’s because of increased police presence, it isn’t. It’s because of the enormous improvements in roads and cars in the last thirty years. RDT’s are not a safety issue. They are a revenue raising exercise deliberately aimed at people who prefer cannabis to the poisonous alcohol available in every suburb in Australia.

    • Oh Petrus…Take the alcohol users and the drug users from the roads and there will still be traffic accidents and deaths. Too much attention chasing cannabis users though. 35 years of driving…35 years of cannabis use…5 accidents…1 my fault…every accident occurred during prolonged periods of cannabis abstinence…not one occurred during my periods of prolonged cannabis use, even though this is when I spent more time on the roads.
      But every accident on our roads comes down to incident unique factors.
      Listen to what is being said by users…we are prepared to go out on a limb to let people know our learned truth.
      And if you don’t believe in conspiracies, just look at the way our leaders gain power.

      • Shane

        many accidents do not involve alcohol or drugs but there is ample evidence out that alcohol is a significant factor in many, and evidence that driving under the influence of cannabis is dangerous too – your experience is significant in comparison if a bit worrying. But the evidence is for our research bodies and authorites to assess, and for the latter to advise government – frankly I would prefer to listen to them then to users who are hardly disinterested (I heard more than my share of “I can still have a half a dozen beers and drive ok” comments in the seventies) . In respect of the way leaders get power – I think the process is transparent enough, it is subject to a lot of scrutiny by the press, and nothing my friends and family who are closer to the process in the three main parties tell me suggests to me that there are any great conspiracies beyond the sort of lobbying, branch stacking and dealing we read about in the press.

  2. Compton and Berning comments that their results “do not indicate that drug use by drivers is risk-free” refers to drug use not all driving. As such and being aware of the broader body of research on its impacts they remain open to the possibility that drug use is dangerous, and that is not inconsistent with the University of Colorado funding, which leave open that the use of cannabis is the lesser of two evils and a shift of behaviour from alcohol to cannabis, is a better but unsatisfactory outcome. Many studies have shown RDT is effective albeit expensive in detecting and reducing drug driving but methodologically stop short of correlating that with reduced mortality.morbidity A Curtin Monash Accident Research Centre study in 2014 of drug use in drivers involved in crashes did find ” The high prevalence of THC among fatally injured drivers/riders, along with the findings from laboratory and simulator studies of the detrimental effects of cannabis on various psychomotor and driving performance skills …, underscores the concern that cannabis use represents a significant source of risk for crash involvement and injury” . This is an interesting academic debate that may or may not lead in time to a change in international best practice which could lead to a change in policy here about RDT. Whichever way, while of of course the police exercise judgement in respect of their day to day work it is plainly not the job of operational police to question government policy and law (except in as much as senior operational police would advise on aspects of policing law). As I expected you are unable to show any evidence to support your allegations that RDT is a result of some corruption; there is similarly no evidence to show the allegation you earlier made that its about revenue raising. Similar “revenue raising” allegations were long made in respect of tobacco taxes; if you read the open period cabinet submissions that are available digitally on the National Archives website, you will see there was no involvement of the Treasury in the decision making – they were a a health measure, just as this is, misguided or not, is a road safety measure. As so often occurs with these conspiracy theories – speeding fines are a similar target – there is no evidence put forward to support the allegations. If you are concerned about the impact of pharmaceuticals on crashes then by all means put forward a case for adding that to the RBT/RDT regime – if there is evidence that they are causing crashes I will support you (I am a cyclist so anything that might make the roads safer). In the mean time we have normalized the message that drink and drug driving is dangerous and as I note above unless there is a shift of opinion internationally, supported by our road safety research bodies and authorities, let’s not start cherry picking words from the on-gong debate in the literature, and similarly can we stop creating conspiracy theories, that undermine the work of the government and police in preventing drug influenced driving. Finally can I express amusement at your earlier comment that RDT is somehow a right-wing christian matter – I would have thought people on the right would have applauded the increased free-market competition that small scale cannabis provides in inducing oblivion; and what relevance is this to Christianity, save that we Christians are as concerned about the protection of human life ?

  3. The bottom line is the NSW LNP government is testing for minute traces of cannabis that remain in the body long after any affect has worn off.
    So whether your testing dead people or Sunday drivers the presence of cannabis in the body has no relation to whether it is or was influencing the driver.
    Which is why the NSW government had to amend their charges from being “under the influence of cannabis” to “Drive with the presence of cannabis, speed/ice or MDMA/ecstacy in oral fluid, blood or urine” because they could provide no evidence that cannabis “influenced” the driver..
    Funnily enough it is also a crime to “Drive with the presence of morphine or cocaine in blood or urine” but they don’t do roadside test for them, even though they could.
    As for “conspiracy theories”, corruption is not a theory.
    More than a dozen NSW LNP members were found guilty of “acting with the intention of evading laws under the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (the election funding laws) relating to the disclosure of political donations and the ban on donations from property developers”.
    A dozen NSW Liberal MPs resigned or went to the crossbench as result of the allegations.
    Which is why the LNP is now trying to dismantled ICAC.
    And who is the biggest political donor in Australia?
    No surprise there?
    According to The Australian Electoral Commission’s list of declared donations given to political parties in the 2012-13 financial year, the Australian Hotels and Hospitality Associations Inc and its associates, the peddler of arguably the most dangerous drug in the world, was the largest donor by miles.
    They and associates donated a total of more the $800,000 to Liberal and Labor, nearly twice the amount of the next donor.
    And finally, Baird trained as an Anglican priest and his good friend Police Minister Scipione is a devout Baptist and are both loud and proud of how Jesus influences their decision making.
    Together they are trying to persecute and prosecute cannabis users because you can grow cannabis in your backyard without paying tax on it and you probably don’t believe in the Christian fairy tale.

    • Dereck There is every differnce between the known and evidenced cases of corruption and the sort of unevidenced conspiracy theories put forward as to why the government is tar getting. The plainer explanation is that authorities accept the evidence that cannabis affects driving. The AHA has bigger fish to fry then cannabis use. Of course you can grow dope just as you can grow tomatoes, but most people buy their tomatoes at Woolies. Were cannabis it to be legalised for recreational use its members would be well placed to cash in on its sale, just as tobacco companies in the US are profiting from he lax attitude their to vaping (BWS would become BWSC!) Again I fail to see what parodying Baird’s faith as a “Christian Fairy tale”s about – I found it reminiscent of some of the Hansonite parodies of Islam – but surely studying Anglican theology would have exposed him to a rather less literal belief then that . The bible does not provide Jesus’ specific views on cannabis but I think myself He who taught us to love our neighbour would have been supportive of efforts to minimize the tragic consequences of road trauma.

  4. I’ve provided you with the evidence but you don’t want to accept the truth.
    The government had to change their law from being “driving under the influence of cannabis” to “having cannabis in your bodily fluids” because they couldn’t prove the minute traces of cannabis they test for had any influence on the person’s driving. RDTs have nothing to do with motoring safety and everything to do with selective persecution and prosecution of cannabis users. Full stop.
    And when Woolies start selling tomatoes for $6000 a kilo people will grow them. As for the Christian fairy tales, all religions are horrible nightmares.

  5. Another important question is why RDT is fully endorsed by the NRMA, using our membership money. This applies only to NRMA roadside assistance, and not the insurance arm which is a separate company.

  6. What a great letter Derek. This insanity to only punish drivers who have used ice/cannabis/xtc is a total scam, of course it is in no way making the roads safer as we keep on seeing the police say that there have been more accidents in x period of time, I’ve read it recently a few times. It’ blatant revenue raising and it’s hurting peoples lives more than helping them.

    What targeting users of only 3 types of drugs shows is how totally inept and ignorant the police and politicians are, and to a degree corrupt. There is no doubt they are targeting cannabis for increased revenue and man power, because the more stats they can say they have on ‘drugged’ drivers the more funding they will continue to get for more saliva tests, sniffer dogs and man power. A driver who used some cannabis 4 days ago but tests positive in a roadside saliva test is not a drugged driver and is not impaired at all, they have tiny trace amounts in their saliva that has no impact on their driving or any other skills at all.

    These cannabis tests are causing havoc to our communities in ways that are only starting to emerge. People are losing their licenses getting large fines of over $1,000 and getting a criminal record, all because they relaxed with some cannabis often many days prior to driving. This in turn is causing some people to lose jobs, not be allowed to go overseas to certain countries and some drivers resort to taking other more dangerous drugs that are not tested for (why aren’t they testing for other drugs?). Such drugs as cocaine, heroin, xanax, oxy contin, endone, bath salts, lsd, nbome and many other types of drugs are not tested for AT ALL. Even though most of them can be tested for, in the UK they do test for many of those drugs listed above and they also have their cannabis tests set at a much more lenient measure.

    Australia is being run by very conservative and often religious people who seem hell bent on taking away any freedoms we used to enjoy and making more and more rules and regulations at the detriment to us the people. These politicians and police ministers are very well paid and receive very generous retirement packages not to mention all the other financial perks they get. All the while they continue to push us further and further down by fining us and criminalising us for things that aren’t dangerous to anyone.

    Do you see the governments caring or helping the homeless or addicted drug and alcohol users? In places like Denver Colorado where they have had total legal recreation cannabis to adults over 21 for years now they have seen amazing results. Lowering of crime, lowered car crashes, lowered hard drug use, lowered teen cannabis use, massive amounts of tax generated from the sale of legal cannabis so much so that the councils and government are employing many of the homeless to do odd jobs in the community. They are also pumping money into schools, hospitals and roads etc.

    Now just think for a moment how it is going in Australia. Hard drug use like ice is continuing to rise, purity of the drug is at an all time high, availability is high, street prices continue to drop as there is so much of it around. None of the big busts are making any impact at all on supply or demand.

    And cannabis is the same, no matter how much the police raid and destroy there is always huge amounts of cannabis around and prices remain stable. What a waste of money, time and resources by the police. Is it any wonder why there are so many unsolved murders, rapes and so much property crime when so much of their fund and man power is being rostered to go bushwalking to destroy plants and plowers?

    This all indicates that our government and it’s policies are an utter failure. Experts in drug and alcohol have been telling them this for years but they are so old and stubborn and often religious that they wont change their policies and ways to handle drug use and addiction. It should be a health issue and not a criminal issue but they profit from peoples addictions so they keep on doing the same failed approach.

    The pharmaceutical industry and also the alcoholic industry and tobacco industry are all running scared of losing market share and profits to cannabis and they keep pumping money into politics to keep cannabis so illegal, whilst in many other places this has already started to be reversed with no social issues (no increases in mental health issues) and many positives.

    Why can’t people see how corrupt and unethical our government, police chiefs and health ministers are being here.

    If we continue this same failed path we will continue to see more and more hard drug use (ice) and more crime and more accidents.

    Who wonts that? It’s time for a massive change, it’s long overdue.

  7. You’d have to be pretty gullible to believe that the current roadside drug testing has anything to do with road safety. And a positive test certainly does not mean a person was actually under the influence of anything.

    First of all, even though they CAN test for a wide range of impairment causing substances such as benzodiazepines (Valium, Temazepam), Opioids (Heroin, Methadone), and cocaine, the police are purposely limiting their testing to only cannabis, MDMA and meth which seems a little odd and discriminatory

    Secondly, they are only testing for mere measurable presence as opposed to measuring at levels which are associated with impairment. This is especially true in the case of cannabis, which is fat soluble and can stay with a person for days and sometimes weeks after use. So if you take that into account, then how many people were actually impaired at the time of testing and arrest? Is it right for the state police to charge so many in the name of “road safety” when they were actually posing no risk to anyone else AT THE TIME?

    Also I would like to point out that no other country in the world is testing the way we are. Both the US and UK are actually testing for impairment or testing for levels associated with impairment. These detection levels are clearly outlined in a 2013 expert panel report titled “Driving under the influence of drugs” which was sanctioned by the UK government. This information was readily available to our politicians and it was blatantly ignored.


    To quote Australian National University and health and justice expert David McDonald “Our system breaches human rights and is a gross waste of public funds”. And I tend to agree with this sentiment because our politicians and police had a chance to do this RIGHT, but have chosen not to. And instead of a road safety focused drug test, what we have is an invasive test of Virtue created to marginalise a subsection of the public.

    Please understand that I am in no way advocating for DANGEROUS driving as I too have a family and would hate to see any of them harmed due to anyone else’s negligence and stupidity.

    All I am saying is that there is a difference between doing something in the name of justice and doing something in the name of tyranny. And if you are going to fund a campaign such as this using millions upon millions of our hard earned tax dollars, then you should at least have the decency to do it right and not seek to mislead the public with false statistics and reasoning.

    Otherwise why not just call it prohibition testing? Or simply Virtue testing and instead of having it on the roadside, why not just ask the police to randomly test people on the sidewalk?

  8. Been smoking and driving for 20 years, not one accident, but the last three years i chose not to drive if ive had a smoke because of the down side to smoking, the only down side, getting a rdt. Yes now i admit i often have road rage, having a smoke calmed me immensly before, made me drive slower and more carefully. Now i sit in all the bloody traffic watching older ladies (obviously on heavy meds) by the way they sit at an intersection with a glazed look on their face letting opportunities to merge go over and over again, randomly slamming on their brakes for no reason, not using indicators etc, and all i can think about is how much cannabis users are discriminated against and the link between that and their figures from the war on drugs being bolstered with the high majority of ‘criminals’ being peacefull pot smokers with big smiles on their faces. Everybody out there that’smokes’ knows what im talking about, those bigoted individuals that say its a good idea to test for minute traces of cannabis obviously dont smoke or have tried to smoke before and had a mental reaction that makes them think this is what smokers always feel like when theyre ‘stoned’. Well they dont.


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