Road Safety and Medicinal Cannabis
Medicinal cannabis products are legal, high quality pharmaceutical medicines.
Last year, I introduced the Road Safety Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2019. The effect of this Bill is simple – to treat these medicines, prescribed by a doctor, in the same way as any other prescription medication under the Road Safety Act.
The Bill is safety focused, ensuring that it remains an offence for someone to drive if impaired by medicinal cannabis. The Bill only amends the offences of Driving with Drug Present in Blood or Oral Fluid – which are typically charged when THC is detected, but there is no allegation of dangerous driving behaviour.
The Bill strikes the same balance that already exists for the great many of other prescription medications capable of intoxicating effect (opioid analgesics, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, etc.).
It is important to note that the average medicinal cannabis patient in Victoria is a 55yo woman.
Obtaining a prescription for medicinal cannabis is arduous, requiring both state and federal approvals.
Medicinal Cannabis is generally prescribed for:
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment (such as nausea, pain and loss of appetite)
• Symptom relief in palliative care.
Most of these illness preclude an individual from driving. The cohort of drivers who are prescribed medicinal cannabis medication is therefore small, and most typically suffers of chronic pain disorder (CPD). It is important to recognise that sufferers of CPD will generally have a long history of medical treatment and be managed by a pain specialist. For some CPD suffers, medicinal cannabis can be a viable alternative to strong opioid analgesics or ketamine (which potentially pose a greater risk to driving behaviour than medicinal cannabis medication).
We stigmatise medicinal cannabis in Victoria unfairly.
No other country in the world criminalises driving for those prescribed this medication – it is time we caught up.
I am very pleased that on 14 October 2020 the government committed to find an outcome that will not disadvantage patients taking a prescription medicine and would be achieved via a working group overseen by the Minister for Road Safety, including myself and Victoria Police which will report on or before 18 December 2020.