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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

Byron Shire excels at drug testing-related convictions

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Paul Bibby

Byron Shire has one of the highest rates of roadside drug-testing-related convictions in the state, new figures show.

Figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that there were nearly 100 criminal convictions in the Byron Shire last year as a result of the controversial roadside saliva tests (RDT tests).

That translates to a rate of 288 convictions per 100,000 people, which is the standard statistical measure used to compare different regions.

This rate is more than three-and-a-half times higher than the NSW average and is significantly higher than any local-government area in the Sydney metropolitan area.

The Richmond-Tweed region as a whole has the fourth-highest rate of RDT-related convictions according to the figures, with 151.3 per 100,000 people.

Local Greens MP Tamara Smith said the figures highlighted some of the inherent flaws in the roadside drug-testing regime.

‘One of the biggest issues here is the inconsistency of the laws when compared with tests for drink driving,’ Ms Smith said.

‘For drink driving, you have a threshold of 0.05, which basically means you can have one or two drinks over the course of an evening and still be okay to drive’.

‘But with cannabis, there’s no threshold. So you have a situation where someone has had a joint a day or two before and is not impaired in any way but they will still be picked up by the saliva test and face a criminal conviction.

Completely unfair

‘It’s completely unfair and is really just quite a ridiculous system.’

A further flaw in the system was also revealed during a recent Lismore court case, during which the police’s drug-testing expert stated that cannabis consumed via capsule could not be picked up by the saliva test.

The magistrate in the case David Heilpern said the evidence had ‘obvious implications for the efficacy of the state’s drug driving regime’.

‘Whatever the raison d’être of this legislation, the only available conclusion from the government’s own expert is that criminal liability depends on the mode of intake,’ Mr Heilpern said.

‘It is inconceivable that parliament intended that those who smoked or ate a cookie could be caught, and those who ‘shelved’ or swallowed a capsule could not.’

The Greens have called for major changes to be made to the roadside drug-testing regime to ensure that only those actually affected by drugs are prosecuted.

But the state government has steadfastly defended the system, saying it has made the roads safer by reducing the number of people driving under the influence of drugs.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. So Tamara Smith can guarantee that a person who had a joint the day before is not impaired? I’d hate to be explaining that to the loved ones of an innocent person who died in a crash with someone who by this definition wasn’t impaired.

  2. maybe the rates are 3 times higher because there are three times as many stoned people driving around due to proximity to nimbin. Simple maths people!

  3. Byron is the holiday/relaxation destination of so many. They come here to let their hair down and relax. Why would it be a surprise that so many are caught, especially considering, the pathetic standard of the testing used.To NorthCoastSocialista I say I would not have any anxiety about explaining the flawed drug testing regime to some victims relatives who believe that someone who fails a drug test days after exposing themselves to drugs was actually impaired. In this regard the drug test is not like an alcohol test at all. It only suggests that there is some trace of a drug left in the persons system :not; that they are impaired. This is the hypocrisy of our lawmakers coming to the forefront and also our Police who push hard for these laws even though they are not elected to do so. By no stretch of the imagination am I condoning drunk or drug impaired driving. That needs to stop . That this drug testing is flawed is not unknown by those who should be responsible to fix this unfairness. They are just to gutless to face the uninformed masses who would think them supporters of “drugoes”. Without a huge effort by the informed to educate the uninformed , nothing ,will change. Sadly this cycle repeats itself on many issues. Our system of government and personal freedom is actually imperiled by such apathy and willful ignorance.

  4. What about those people who are suffering who take medicinal cannabis. Most times there is no THC in it or albeit very little ,yet they get caught up in this ridiculous police web. It is about time the law was changed to allow medicinal cannabis users with a letter from their Doctor to say why they are using it. It is usually for pain so why is the law coming down hard on people with a necessity for it to help them be free of pain. Very cruel & should not be happening when most countries have stepped up & legalised it.
    Come on Australia get with it & show some empathy & guts.

  5. These figures are meaningless, unless you also know how many tests were performed.
    The Far North Coast is being blitzed when compared to other areas in NSW. For example, if there are 50 times as many tests performed here, there are going to be many more convictions.
    Just another example of police and government twisting the figures to suit their own purposes.

  6. If our member thinks the current testing regimen is flawed it is up to her to propose an alternative that ensures we not sharing the roads with drug impaired drivers. Whether the BAC needs to be reduced is another question. Tamara Smith is concerned about people being caught who might not still be impaired but there is no concern apparent here for those who might be harmed by affected drivers. How do the Greens expect to encourage active transport if they are weakening our drug driving laws and putting at risk vulnerable road uses like kids walking to school or people cycling?

  7. According to this information, the current roadside drug tests detects THC that has been deposited on a person’s tongue when smoking a joint or eating THC-containing food. It does not detect the THC in your saliva. If a person chooses to remove the THC in their mouth (for example brushing teeth, tongue and palate) then rinsing with a THC solvent (such as alcohol-containing mouthwash), they are unlikely to fail an RDT test for cannabis. People with poor oral hygiene are more likely to fail a roadside drug test for cannabis, perhaps days after they consume cannabis.

    The RDT drug test for therefore discriminates against people with poor oral hygiene and does not provide any reasonable measure of driving impairment.

    I have no issues with punitive approaches to people who choose to drive when they are impaired by drugs or any other reason. People who are impaired are more likely to cause accidents. The premature death or disablement of a single person by a car accident causes trauma that is difficult to comprehend unless one has experienced this.

    Alcohol (ethanol) is legal drug (and heavily taxed!). A great deal of research has been invested into the development of technology that can detect whether a person is impaired by alcohol. If you consume up to one or two standard drinks in one hour (depending on your gender) and one standard drink thereafter, it is reasonable to drive. If you choose to consume more, you are at significant risk of causing someone serious harm. I support a roadside drug test that detects whether a person is impaired.

    I promote the end of prohibition of all drugs (not just alcohol, nicotine and big pharma drugs) along with reasonable methods to detect whether a person is impaired by drugs – and I agree with skeptics who are concerned that all drugs can and do cause harm. However, I challenge skeptics to consider whether they are more concerned about harm minimisation to their fellow humans (AKA compassion), or whether they have moral issues about the “choice” of drugs (or religion, or sexuality or race) by their fellow humans (AKA narcissism).

    People use drugs, despite prohibition. In fact, illegal drug use has increased despite prohibition. Our ancestors have been using drugs well before we have considered ourselves to be Homo sapiens (Wise Man). It can be reasonably argued that drug use by H. sapiens is normal, and as natural as creating fire and making music. Us Homo sapiens have been using cannabis for tens of thousands of years, not only for its pharmaceutical properties, but also for it’s fibre, food and fun properties. But during the last 82 years, we have collectively prohibited the use of one of our most useful plants and attempted (but failed) to eradicate it.

    Prohibition of drugs exacerbates harm. I appeal to your sense of compassion (if it exists) to consider that prohibition of drugs causes great harm to your fellow humans. It creates a flourishing (untaxed) black market, it incarcerates people (at great expense), and it eradicates the basic right of humans to do as we will, up until the point that we cause others harm;

    If drugs were legal, regulated and taxed, this would quash the black market for drugs. Taxes would be paid and funds would be used to support people who are harmed by drugs.The supply of drugs would be regulated to ensure that consumers know what concentration and type of psychoactive substances they are consuming, and to prevent poisonous substances being incorporated. Well-funded and -researched methods would be developed to detect whether people who choose to drive after their drug consumption are impaired. The right of people to do as they will, up to the point at which they cause others harm to others, would be respected.

    On a final note, I support age-restrictions for drug use. It is well demonstrated that drugs are more likely to cause harm to children and adolescents, and it is our responsibility, as adults, to minimise this harm to our collective children. Ending prohibition will allow this conversation to take place without hysteria and inevitable harm to young people who choose to experiment with drugs.

  8. Well I’m on Medical CBD prescribed by my Neurosurgeon. I was informed NOT to drive whilst I’m taking it. So I only use it last thing at night to try n avoid conviction. It DOES contain THC.
    You’re damned if you do n damned if you don’t. Ridiculous I should be paranoid about being pulled over!!

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