Calls to exclude medicinal cannabis users from new SA drug-driving rules

Concerns have been raised for thousands of South Australians using medicinal cannabis as strict new road laws, which could see them stripped of their licence immediately, come into effect today.

Motorists caught with drugs in their system in South Australia will now have their driver’s licence immediately stripped as new powers are handed to SA police officers.

Dean of Law at Southern Cross University and campaign lead for Drive Change, David Heilpern, urged Police Minister Joe Szakacs to allow an amendment for people with a THC prescription from a doctor.

“The forgotten people in these laws are these tens of thousands of South Australians who are taking prescriptions with very small quantities of THC in their system,” Mr Heilpern said.

“For those South Australians who are relying on THC to assist them with a whole range of medical conditions, they’ll be left with immediate suspension of their licence before they have a chance to go to court.”

A male police officer speaks while another man wearing a blazer looks on from behind
Assistant Police Commissioner Ian Parrott and Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs at the announcement about drug-driving laws.(ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

In Tasmania, there is an exemption for motorists who test positive to THC at a roadside drug test if they have a prescription for medicinal cannabis.

The SA Greens have joined calls to review the laws.

Mr Szackas said there were no plans to make the exemption.

“I don’t have an optimistic answer for those people who met with me or with advocates … the advice that I have received to date is such that we will be sticking with this model,” Mr Szakacs said.

Mr Heilpern said there were more than 200,000 Australians with a prescription to use medicinal cannabis.

“These people who are using these drugs are not having three bongs before driving on the road,” he said.

“They’re going to their doctor with a chronic ailment and they’re getting a prescription.”

An SA Police vehicle with flashing lights.
The SA Greens have joined calls to review the new drug-driving laws.(ABC News: Michael Clements)

Roadside tests limited

Mr Szackas said roadside drug tests only showed results for THC, meth, and MDMA due to technology limits.

“Our government is incredibly open-minded and responds where it can if there is new technology that enables us to test for other drugs, and we’ll of course always be open-minded to reforming the law if we can,” he said.

“We know it’s not just these three drugs that can cause impairment.”

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