Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (16:51:551:): I rise to speak about the petition that was tabled in this house just yesterday—a petition calling for a review of roadside cannabis testing laws. This is about equality. This is about the 172 000 patients who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis. All they are asking for is equal driving rights. All they are asking for is that they be allowed to have a complete defence for the presence of THC in their oral fluid or blood when they have a valid doctors prescription for a product, when the nature of their offending does not involve dangerous or reckless driving and when the officer cannot establish reasonable grounds to suspect driver impairment.
I know everyone in this chamber knows someone who is using medicinal cannabis, and probably they have told you that it has helped them sleep better, that it has helped remove the pain, that it has helped them get their lives back, because this medicine has helped, as I say, over 100 000 people and growing. The numbers are growing. The products are growing. The range of symptoms that it can affect is growing as well.
We are not saying that if someone is impaired they should be allowed to drive. We are just saying that if people have been prescribed a legal prescription medication and can drive safely, then they should be allowed to do so. We allow people to drive when they have prescriptions for opioids. We allow people to drive when they have prescriptions for benzodiazepines. We ask them not to drive if they are feeling impaired. Their doctors provide them with that evidence that they should not drive if they are feeling impaired, and that is all the hundreds and thousands of medicinal cannabis patients are asking for.
In Victoria we were the first state to legalise medicinal cannabis. We were progressive. We set the pace for the rest of the country to follow in our steps. We also set a medicinal cannabis industry plan. We set targets and strategies for how we were going to build a medicinal cannabis industry in Victoria, and then we put the complete brakes on it by saying that medicinal cannabis patients must be treated differently to all other patients. It is just not fair. It is not right. It is not based in science. It is not based in evidence.
We have seen other jurisdictions, like that radical place, Tasmania, where they have a defence.
And, guess what, since medicinal cannabis was legalised in Tasmania there has not been an increase in road deaths, there has not been an increase in people driving impaired, but it has meant that people who get great relief from this medicine are allowed to do that.
Let us just remember who we are talking about. The average age of a medicinal cannabis patient is 52; they are female. So that is a 52-year-old woman—not actually very high up in our driving fatality statistics, not even very high up in our road incident statistics. Many of us have been talking about endometriosis in recent weeks; many of the endometriosis patients are finding great relief from medicinal cannabis. I spoke to one just the other day, and she said, ‘I can only use it when I’m on holidays’. So it is only when she is on holidays that she gets the relief that that medicine can provide for her.
This petition is asking for a trial. It is not asking for anything radical. In fact Australia is one of the only jurisdictions that prohibits medicinal cannabis patients from driving when it is safe to do so. We are pretty much the only jurisdiction. So this petition was asking the government to allow for a trial, to allow for those patients who have a valid prescription from their doctor to be allowed to drive when they are not impaired. I do not think that is too much to ask.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Statement on petition 6/4/22