Legislation recently passed in the Australian state of Victoria will enable the testing of cannabis’ effects on driving safely.
Medical cannabis was legalized in the Australian state of Victoria in 2016, but driving with any amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) remains illegal in the country, with a few exceptions (1). Many medical cannabis patients have previously voiced concerns over risking fines or losing their license while being prescribed medical cannabis, and are also stating that they are able to drive unimpaired (2).
The Transport Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 was introduced in Parliament on Wednesday, October 18th, 2023 and will allow the government to create a closed-circuit driving trial to assess medical cannabis patients’ ability to drive safely after ingesting cannabis (3). “This Bill will allow us to deliver a world-leading research trial into medicinal cannabis and driving, enhancing our understanding of the how medicinal cannabis affects driving behaviour and informing future reform,” stated Melissa Horne, Minister for Roads and Road Safety, in a press release (3).
The trial would be overseen by the government and a still-forthcoming research organization with the support of the Department of Transport and Planning and healthcare professionals (1). The road used in the trial would be entirely unconnected to public roads (1).
THC can potentially remain in a person’s system even after initial effects subside, and current research on how THC affects driving safety is insufficient to establish a definitive THC threshold for driving (1).
The Australian Lawyer Alliance (ALA) has stated that during the research trial, drivers who showed no evidence of impairment while taking medical cannabis should not be prosecuted (4). “Drivers who take opioids or other prescription medication do not find themselves in court or risk losing their license, and neither should drivers who have taken a prescribed and legal dose of cannabis,” said Greg Barns SC, spokesperson for the ALA (4).
The number of people in Australia being prescribed cannabis has reportedly risen by 700% since 2021, the press release stated (3).