Around 25,000 Australians currently use medicinal cannabis products, which are often prescribed to help relieve symptoms and pain brought about by chronic medical conditions. Medicinal cannabis is commonly used to alleviate nausea associated with chemotherapy treatment.
It is currently illegal for someone to drive if they’re using medicinal cannabis and as such, have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, in their system. According to The Conversation, if they were to injure someone in a traffic accident, they could face criminal charges due to driving while impaired.
This could soon change in the state of Victoria with a parliamentary bill proposing to treat those who use medicinal cannabis the same way as people who use other prescription drugs, instead of handling it the same way as illegal drug users.
Medicinal cannabis prescribed by doctors has been legal in Victoria since 2015 and the bill to change the rules around driving while using the substance is gaining popularity.
According to The Age, the bill is currently under review by a Parliament “working group” of medical experts, road safety groups, Victoria Police and officials from the departments of Justice and Transport, and a report is expected on the matter by December 18.
“We’re looking forward to continuing that collaborative discussion, which I think is borne out by the government’s actions and commitment towards developing medicinal cannabis and making sure that we are doing it and doing it properly, to the benefit of those who need it most,” said Labor MP Harriet Shing of the working group.
Reason Party MP Fiona Patten has spent the last five years campaigning to have this rule changed and says that roughly 4,000 users of medicinal cannabis in the state of Victoria would benefit almost immediately from this change to the law.
“Australia is the only jurisdiction that prevents medicinal cannabis patients from driving 24/7 and it is simply unfair,” Fiona Patten told The Age. “Medicinal cannabis patients should be treated in the exact same way as any other patient who is prescribed a medication and should be allowed to drive if it is safe to do so.”