Wednesday, 18 October 2017
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I speak today on the issue of medical cannabis and, more specifically, on medical cannabis and driving. Three and a half months ago in this place the Dignity Party amended the government’s Statutes Amendment (Drink and Drug Driving) Bill 2017 to enable drivers that use physician-prescribed medical cannabis to be able to use a certified letter from their doctor as a defence if they are charged with a drug driving offence following a roadside lick test.
We made this medical cannabis driving amendment with the measured and sensible support of the Liberal opposition and crossbenchers from the Greens and Advance SA. It was and is a considered, practical and scientifically supported amendment since medical cannabis is a legal, prescribable medical treatment in this state.
Medical cannabis in varying forms is used by South Australians that have often exhausted all other medical and treatment options. Medicinal cannabis can be effective in the treatment of intractable epilepsy seizures, for nausea associated with chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, for chronic pain, and a multitude of other disabilities and chronic health conditions.
In jurisdictions in the United States of America, where medical cannabis has been legalised, in addition to significant economic benefits to those states, there has been a significant reduction in opioid-related deaths and motor vehicle accidents. At this point all of the evidence points to medical cannabis reducing injury and death of citizens that have previously occurred through opioid overdose and motor vehicle accidents in those places.
Since my sensible amendment passed the parliament, both the previous road safety minister and now current road safety minister have engaged in publicly attacking my amendment under the guise, using the rhetoric, of being tough on drugs, or road safety. But this comes from a government that fails to understand the science of medical cannabis and the evidence around driving while using medical cannabis from around the world.
This government has the methods available to it to detect cocaine in roadside drug and alcohol testing, yet it chooses not to, so why attack a legally-prescribed medical substance? Instead, they want to target medical cannabis users when they drive. Many medical cannabis users use cold-pressed medical cannabis oil. Cold-pressed oil contains THC, which is the substance that roadside lick tests can defect, yet cold-pressed cannabis oil is not psychoactive.
To make THC psychoactive, for the THC to make you stoned, as it were, the cannabis must be heated in the manufacturing process or when it is smoked. Cold-pressed medical cannabis oil for this reason is not psychoactive, yet you can have your licence removed for having it present in your body. The road safety minister and this government continue to ignore this, and instead spread misinformation to the community.
Dr Michael White, a road safety researcher, made himself available to speak to all members of parliament and presented a briefing I organised for members back in August. I understand the road safety minister continued to ignore this advice. Dr White, who is also a visiting research fellow in the psychology department of the University of Adelaide, presented last week in Perth evidence to the Australasian Road Safety Conference.
Dr White’s research presented last week demonstrates that the presence of cannabis in a driver’s system led to a cannabis crash odds ratio of 1:0, meaning that cannabis has no effect on the risk of crashing. It is time for the government and the road safety minister to read and to listen to the evidence, to quit their rhetoric and to support this sensible amendment to the South Australian law, for South Australians who are already suffering enough from pain and fatigue, which untreated can be more dangerous to drive under than if treated by medical cannabis, and to make sure that this campaign and our laws are driven not by fear but by compassion and by science.