Police set up drug- and alcohol-testing stations on all roads leading into (and therefore, out of) Nimbin on the weekend during the annual Mardi Grass protest event.
Unsurprisingly, people had chosen to partake what the protest was about and though police were pleased with overall patron behaviour, they were disappointed by the number of people still getting behind the wheel while under the influence* of drugs.
Police from Richmond PD ran a number of concurrent operations during last weekend’s event (Friday 3 May – Sunday 5 May 2019), including a drug-bus operation, a drug-dog operation, and a high-visibility policing operation in the Nimbin township utilising an operations support group, a target action group, the police dog unit and general duties police.
Of note, a 24-year-old Queensland man was charged with several drugs offences, including supplying a commercial quantity of a prohibited drug. He was granted conditional bail to appear at Lismore Local Court on Monday 15 July 2019.
A 17-year-old man was charged with offensive behaviour, assaulting police, and resisting arrest. No mention was made if he was under the influence of an illicit substance. He has been granted conditional bail to appear at a children’s court in Lismore on Friday 24 May 2019.
Nine persons were issued Court Attendance Notices for drug offences (cannabis, methylamphetamine, LSD, mushrooms, MDMA, Diazapam), more than 20 cannabis cautions were issued, and two youth cautions were issued.
As a part of police operations surrounding Mardi Grass, a high-profile random breath-testing and random drug-testing operation was conducted, which concluded yesterday (Monday 6 May 2019).
During the event, a number of high-profile stationary sites were set up around Nimbin to detect and deter people driving with drugs or alcohol present in their system.
Sixty-five people had their oral fluid sample return a positive indication for the presence of a prohibited drug. Of those, 28 were for cannabis, 14 for cocaine, 12 for methylamphetamine, nine for cannabis and methylamphetamine, and two for cocaine and methylamphetamine.
All were suspended from driving for 24 hours.
Police will await laboratory testing results from a second sample before determining further legal action.
Richmond Police District chief inspector Nicole Bruce said police are very concerned by the large number of drivers testing positive to drugs.
‘Illegal drugs have an adverse effect on the precise skills, concentration, and response times required to safely drive a motor vehicle,’ said Chief Insp Bruce.
‘Those who drive while under the influence of any drug are automatically at greater risk of injuring or killing themselves, their passengers, and other road users.’
Despite this, she says the majority of attendees were abiding by the rules and cooperating with police to ensure the event was safe and enjoyable for the community.
‘Approximately 3,000 people came to the small town of Nimbin this year, which was down on original estimates,’ she said.
‘The majority of people were having a good time while keeping safe.’
Police want to remind motorists that driving under the influence of prohibited drugs is not only illegal, it is immeasurably irresponsible and dangerous.
There are big questions around the reasons why roadside drug testing (RDT), that doesn’t test for impairment of cannabis but merely its presence, is being used and a call for a parliamentary inquiry on RDT is now being made by Nimbin’s HEMP embassy president Michael Balderstone.
* Influence would suggest impairment. From the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition) – Influence: the direct action of matter upon mind.