MS PATTEN — To ask the Minister for Employment (for the Minister for Roads and Road Safety):
Incorporated pursuant to order of Council of 7 September 2021:
My adjournment matter is for the minister for road safety and relates to medicinal cannabis.
Last week the Premier posted on social media that medicinal cannabis ‘helps the most unwell Victorians. It can change lives. And it’s being manufactured right here’.
The Premier has previously stated that ‘the best argument in favour of medicinal cannabis is that it saves lives’.
As a state we have embraced medicinal cannabis as an industry and we recognise it as legitimate prescription medicine.
But the single-biggest barrier to access is our driving law that does not distinguish between medicinal and illicit use.
I have introduced a bill on this issue. I saw that a government working group was established on this issue. But that has not helped the growing number of Victorian medicinal cannabis patients.
Under Tasmanian driving law, THC is seen as a prescribed and lawful drug and a person does not commit an offence if that drug was obtained and administered lawfully.
The fact that Tasmania has a legal defence for medicinal cannabis patients shows that it is not only possible, but that it is safe and reasonable.
So the action I seek is that the minister meet with his relevant counterpart from the Tasmanian government with the view to understanding how that government allayed safety concerns in legislating for this important reform.
We provide a defence in Victorian law for all other prescription medicines. It is time we stopped discriminating against medicinal cannabis patients and followed Tasmania’s lead.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
I thank the Member for Northern Metropolitan Region for her question.
I acknowledge that prescribed medicinal cannabis is a genuine treatment option for individuals with certain chronic health conditions. Medicinal cannabis can come in many different forms and as such, may contain varying levels of THC, the impairing component of cannabis. Some medicinal cannabis formulations contain very low levels of THC, which is unlikely to be detectable on confirmatory roadside drug testing protocols.
It is currently not possible to reliably determine the type of cannabis, whether it be medicinal or recreational, a positive roadside test for THC has resulted from.
Regardless, numerous studies over many years have demonstrated the impairing effects THC can have on driving performance. On average each year, approximately 15 per cent of all deceased drivers on Victorian roads are found to have detectable levels of THC in their system. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine have analysed over 5,000 random blood samples of seriously injured drivers in Victoria and have shown that THC, at any concentration, is associated with almost a doubling of the crash risk, compared to a drug-free driver, which highlights the very real dangers associated with THC and driving.
The Government’s road safety partners, including the Department of Transport, the TAC, Victoria Police, the Department of Justice and Community Safety, and the Department of Health, are currently undertaking research to better our understanding of the effects of medicinal cannabis containing THC specifically on driving, and the likelihood of being detected at roadside.
The government is committed to continue to explore options that may offer a balanced solution, one that supports medicinal cannabis patients whilst upholding the road safety of all Victorians.
The Hon Ben Carroll MP
Minister for Public Transport
Minister for Roads and Road Safety