The Greens chose the revitalised Mullumbimby Gateway to announce this lunchtime that they will call for an end to the practice of roadside drug testing (RDT).
Greens drug law reform spokesperson Cate Faehrmann described the testing as ‘arbitrary and unreliable’ adding it was not a road safety measure but ‘an extension of the failed war on drugs’.
She was joined at the announcement by Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Lismore Greens candidate Sue Higginson, together with a moderator of the Facebook group North Coast RDT Locations, Ron Priestly.
The Greens say research suggests the NSW Police ‘are disproportionately targeting the Northern Rivers with the rate of drug driving convictions in the Richmond – Tweed area the highest in the state, at 470 per 100,000 population – more than five times the NSW average of 92.9.
They add that unlike breath testing for alcohol, the RDT is not evidence-based.
‘We know that drugs like marijuana will stay in people’s system for days, or even weeks, after consumption. This means drivers are being convicted despite no evidence of impairment or threat to road safety,’ Ms Faehrmann said.
Ms Smith said, ‘The question needs to be asked – is a driver who has smoked a joint a week ago an impaired driver? Let’s use the science to find out the answer and then communicate that to the public so that they can make informed choices about driving and ingesting drugs and alcohol’.
Ms Higginson, a lawyer, said the current regime is ‘unfairly wrecking people’s lives, clogging up our courts, costing enormous amounts of money and wasting police resources’.
‘That is why the Greens are calling for an end to roadside drug testing until an evidence based roadside drug testing programme is introduced that actually tests for impairment, rather than simply presence of drugs,’ Ms Faehrmann added.
Mr Priestly said that most of his group’s nearly 21,000 members are spread over the three North Coast electorates of Ballina, Tweed and Lismore.
He said the group’s how to vote card advocates voting Greens 1 and Country Labor 2 in all electorates.
‘There would be an average of about 6,000 potential voters in each electorate. My ambition is to try to get 500 new votes in each electorate. As only just over about 50,000 votes were cast last time in each electorate, I saw 500 new votes as possibly enough to get rid of the Nationals.’