MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:51:18):
I would like to briefly speak to the Transport Legislation Amendment (Better Roads Victoria and Other Amendments) Bill 2018. I note that this bill implements the Better Roads Victoria Trust Fund, which will hypothecate the traffic camera fines to suburban, rural and interface roads. I think this is very sensible, and sadly I have contributed to that fund in the past and I have no doubt I may contribute to this fund in the future. I am doing my bit to help with the funding of roads in Victoria. The bill also shifts the responsibility for the management of interlocks from the courts to VicRoads, and I think this is really sensible. We know that our courts are just so clogged and sinking under the weight of business that is now being conducted in our courts. So these are both sensible amendments, and it is largely a sensible bill. But looking at interlocks and looking at the notion of drink-driving, I could not help but turn my mind to drug driving, driving under the influence of drugs, and the effect—sometimes the very damaging effect—that that has. We know that drugs and alcohol together have an exponential effect on people’s ability to drive safely. So while looking through this bill I did think it was an opportunity to introduce what I think would be very reasonable and sensible amendments to the Road Safety Act 1986 to allow people who have been prescribed medicinal cannabis to drive. I am not saying to we should allow people who are impaired to drive. I am suggesting that people who have been prescribed a medicine should be allowed to drive. This is exactly the same as we treat all other prescription medicines. This is the only medicine that is not treated in this way. I will use the example of a patient that I know who had the choice of either a benzodiazepine prescription to help her sleep or using a high cannabidiol oil to help her sleep. The CBD oil had a moderate level of THC in it, but it did not impair her when she woke up in the morning—quite the opposite, she felt bright, she felt great—but she could not take the kids to school. Now, if she had taken the benzodiazepine she would have been able to take the kids to school and she might have felt a bit groggy, but under the current legislation if you are prescribed medicinal cannabis—even if it has the smallest amount of THC, which is what is picked up—you cannot drive. My amendments look to excluding medicinal cannabis prescribed by a doctor from the offence of driving with drug present in oral fluid. This applies only to methamphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis. If the person has been prescribed the cannabis, they should be exempt from this. As I say, of course this does not affect cases where someone is driving recklessly or someone is driving impaired by a substance. My amendments are small. The first amendment changes some of the lines in clause 1. Clause 2 and clause 6 are complementary to that. I add some definitions to the Road Safety Act 1986. I add ‘medicinal cannabis product’ into the act, and that will have exactly the same meaning as in the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016. I add ‘patient medicinal cannabis access authorisation’. That again has exactly the same meaning as in the Access to Medicinal Cannabis Act 2016 that was unanimously supported by this chamber last term. We also change the definition of ‘prescription drug’ to enable medicinal cannabis to be recognised under the Road Safety Act as what it is: a prescription drug. I think this is very sensible. In my mind it probably was a bit of an oversight at the time of the debate on the medicinal cannabis bill. I appreciate that the minister who had carriage of that bill now has carriage of this bill for this debate, so I know that she is well abreast of this issue. Just finally, I would also note that the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee actually looked at this issue and included a whole chapter on drug driving and the effects of it. In one of our recommendations—which were largely bipartisan, I have to say—we anticipated that there would be changes to drug driving laws resulting from the availability of medicinal cannabis. This is not affecting just one person. This is affecting hundreds and thousands of current patients but also prospective patients. A mother cannot take medicinal cannabis to assist with anxiety or to assist with sleep or to assist with nausea due to cancer treatment because it would mean she could not drive her kids to school the next day. Many patients are choosing much more harmful prescription medication so that they can continue to drive. I commend my amendments but I also support this bill. I look forward to answering any questions about my amendments in the committee stage.