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Byron Shire
July 15, 2024

Drugs: call for no more ‘nanny state’

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Policy ambition, age and conservatives 

The sad state of conservative politics has again dominated the world stage this week, with the Tory wipeout in the UK, and a chaotic result in the French elections, reducing President Macron’s Centralist Alliance to 168 seats in the 577-seat parliament. 

Police cars at Tweed Heads prior to last weekends RDT blitz. According to reports the police had units covering the southbound exits of the Pacific Highway from Ballina to Tweed Heads throughout the weekend leaving many people in awe of the resources that had been deployed for the ‘Operation Nabbed – Northern’. Photo Nth Coast and SE Qld RDT Locations and RDT discussion Facebook group.

Aslan Shand

During the weekend blitz targeting roadside testing for alcohol and drugs in Northern NSW almost 80 people were arrested for drink driving. However, the use of roadside drug testing (RDT) during the operation has highlighted NSW government laws that target the use of cannabis rather than its impact on driving.

The use of cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes is flourishing – and being legalised – throughout the world yet the NSW Liberal/National government seem determined to stick with flawed roadside drug testing (RDT) methods (not to mention festivals!).

From the United States to countries across Europe governments are stepping up to the mark and finally taking a scientific and mature approach to both the use of cannabis and determining safe levels at which people can drive on the road.

Like alcohol there are tests that can determine the level of cannabis in a driver’s system. Again – like alcohol – it is up to governments, backed by science, to determine the levels that the drug is likely to have an impact on the driver’s ability to control their vehicle. Yet under current laws in NSW roadside drug testing for cannabis tests only for the presence of cannabis in the driver’s system.

Impairment not presence the issue

The Nth Coast and SE Qld RDT Locations and RDT discussion Facebook groups, which number over 20,000 members, say that they want the safest roads possible but that the presence of cannabis in a driver’s blood does not indicate impairment.

‘The equipment currently being used in saliva testing is inaccurate and unreliable, often recording false positives and negatives,’ said Gail Hester of the Medicinal Cannabis Users Association (MCUA) of Australia.

This is backed by Ballina MP Tamara Smith who recognises that the drug testing system is ‘flawed’.

‘The NSW “nanny state” government is using traffic laws to police drug use without any scientific level of impairment established,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘Other countries that have introduced RDT first established levels of driver impairment for each substance being tested, as is done with alcohol, so that presence alone of a drug is not criminalised.

‘Cases before the courts in our area have exposed that people who had ingested marijuana weeks before they were tested, tested positive. Without a scientific benchmark for impaired driving it’s a “war on drugs” dressed up in the Traffic Act, its criminalising predominantly low-level drug-users in our area who are often from low socio-economic backgrounds and it’s inherently unfair,’ she said.

Country Labor candidate for Ballina Asren Pugh has also ‘long supported an impairment based test for roadside drug testing,’ he said.

Mr Pugh highlighted that, ‘We need a system that ensures that people are not driving while under the influence of drugs, including alcohol, and putting themselves and other road users at risk.’

All candidates and the sitting MP for the seat of Ballina said they supported police efforts to keep our roads safe. However, Nationals candidate for Ballina Ben Franklin, while having tried cannabis at university, avoided the question of drug testing. Instead he responded saying that, ‘The police are responsible for enforcing the law, which is in place for our safety – It’s all about keeping road users safe’.

‘This area has one of the highest rates of PCA [prescribed concentration of alcohol] offences in the state, which shows some local drivers are not getting the “no drink, no drugs” message’,’ he said.

Make government accountable

Highlighting the fact that the premise of the current RDT is aimed at punishing people who may have taken cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes the Nth Coast and SE Qld RDT Locations and RDT groups are calling for a ‘repeal of the current RDT legislation’.

‘What we want to see is the repeal of the current RDT legislation, a moratorium on all pending court cases for people charged with driving with an illicit substance (cannabis only at this stage) and an investigation into replacing the current tests for mere presence with one solely based on impairment,’ said Klav Curate one of the RDT group’s administrators.

‘None of us want people who are impaired by anything driving around, but that measure of impairment must have a sound, scientifically based foundation.’

The RDT groups are aiming to vote as a block for the candidates who will commit to getting the drug laws changed.

‘Our demographic is diverse. We have people from all age-groups, socio-economic backgrounds and careers, from different political persuasions who have joined together to vote against the government because we are fed up with the current situation,’ said Nellie Robson another of the RDT group administrators.

‘Zero tolerance is totally incompatible with our fledgling medical cannabis program and patients in these areas should not have to cease prescribed medication just so they can get to the shops or doctors appointments,’ said Ms Hester.


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17 COMMENTS

  1. It is time to drive the message home and put the inebriated driver in the passenger seat.
    Just under a neat glass or a puff or two under 80 people were arrested during roadside testing on the weekend blitz in Northern NSW targeting drugs and alcohol. NSW government laws now home in on cannabis use rather than its impact on driving ability while under the influence of that drug.

  2. “This area has one of the highest rates of PCA [prescribed concentration of alcohol] offences in the state, which shows some local drivers are not getting the “no drink, no drugs” message”… So Ben Franklin thinks it’s the locals and not the millions of tourists that are the problem? Are these mainly locals that are being busted for high PCA?

  3. The australian government are one of the most backward, intolerant and corrupt institutions in the entire western world and its police force are one of the most intolerant and most brutal. Each are worthy of no respect whatsoever.

  4. The Liberal National Party is hooked on the drug called “money”.
    With 10 HWP patrols fining an average of 6 drivers an hour during two 8 hour shifts with a fine averaging $200, the NSW Government is hoovering nearly $250,000 a day out of this community and straight to Sydney to be spent where the Liberal National Party will get the most votes for our dollar.
    If these conservative figures were carried through the year, $90 million is being sucked out of the North Coast every year and straight to the LNP.
    Think of the jobs, businesses and services that are being adversely impacted by the Liberal National Party’s desire to punish the Northern Rivers for standing up against fracking, de-afforestation and rampart development.
    VOTE THEM OIUT

  5. People I feel are too scared to have a voice. Nanny state it is. Over representaion of Police to the number of people living on Far North Coast.

  6. The RDT is a joke!! I’m not against drug driving testing, but the fact that it has no impairment threshold, just confirms my suspicions that it’s really just a way to stop us smoking pot full stop!! we MUST fight this!!! Demand the pollies fix the test so that all drugs are considered and give an impairment threshold, based on scientific evidence!

  7. The message is simple:

    Personal freedoms to behave as you wish with your life, do not extend to breaking the law.

    Get over it!

    • Really Dan. Slavery, genocide and child labor were legal until people ignored your advice to “get over it” and fought to change inhuman laws.
      D

  8. Time to change the law. People who are taking medicinal cannabis will not be impaired as those who take the recreational cannabis. Medicinal cannabis does not have the THC in it so you will not get the high, it is purely to help with pain, so come on law makers lets get it changed & do it now, so we patients in lots of pain can get relief without the dangers from big pharma drugs.

      • Untrue Maxim.
        I have extensive experience with (non THC) CBD and it works.
        Obviously THC oil (Rick Simpson’s Oil) is more effective for a wider range of conditions but CBD oil is a powerful medicine on its own.
        D

  9. We need an impairment test or guidelines. People showing positive results while obviously not impaired are losing jobs over this. Cannabis is safe to use, no-one has ever died from using it. Impairment has to be addressed because the law is unjust against cannabis users. Time for Australia to lead the world, not get dragged along trying to catch up.

  10. time to fix the drug testing apparatus to show the true amounts of the drug in the body as there equipment is catching people out that have not smoked for a while, and the studies proving what is a dangerous amount has not been identified, and so its all just a revenue raising venture at the moment with innocent people being caught in there web of deceitfullnes, time to fix the problems now gfuys

  11. The reason we get arrests 4 times the State average is that the cops do 4 times as many tests. Voting population of Tweed and part Ballina electorates, where the massive Police FORCE RBT took place weekend before last is about 60-70,000 and the Police FORCE did 8000 tests ,No wonder the catch more people. Duh!

  12. Brush your teeth and tongue before you drive. You will pass the test easily. It’s all about oral hygiene folks.interesting that police don’t notice you are stoned in the first place, add a passed test and off you go. Best the system don’t fight it.

  13. Perhaps the law makers should prove pot is dangerous before drafting draconian laws in. The first place? Pot does not cause deaths and we know that as fact. Prove the dangerous moniker has a root in factual reality. God, no wonder people hate police and won’t assist in their enquiries. Police are identifying themselves as enemies of ordinary people. Vote this govt out of power, perhaps we can get a better class of people running the show.

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