Victorian medical cannabis patients will be able to get behind the wheel to test road safety

In 2016, Australia legalized access to medical cannabis, allowing patients to access dozens of different cannabis products through prescription.

Now the Victorian government wants to take another step to open the door for the state’s medical cannabis patients to be able to drive.

In a bill passed last year, the government pledged to launch a closed-loop trial to investigate driving impairment caused by medical cannabis.

A push to change driving laws around medicinal cannabis has also been seen in other states such as Western Australia, while in Tasmania it is legal to drive as long as the person is not impaired by the drug.

But how does medical cannabis legislation work and what are the risks to road safety?

Medical Cannabis in Victoria

For any Victorian patient, with any medical condition, their doctor can prescribe medicinal cannabis if deemed clinically appropriate.

There are two groups of medical cannabis patients, each of which has different driving rules.

Medical cannabis patients using cannabidiol or CBD products have always been allowed to drive in Victoria as long as they are not under the influence of alcohol.

However, some medical cannabis products contain a compound known as Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, which is responsible for the “high” feeling associated with cannabis and could impair the ability to drive.

A bottle of medicine with a label warning that the medicine may cause drowsiness.

Driving laws differ depending on the type of compound used in a medical cannabis product.(ABC News: Jamie Thannoo)

Currently, in Victoria it is an offense for a person to drive with any amount of THC in their system, whether the THC comes from medicinal cannabis or not.

Victoria Police currently conducts random drug testing on Victoria’s roads, and saliva tests that come back positive for THC result in a drug driving charge.

Drivers with THC in their system faced mandatory license suspensions and fines if caught.

The new trial by the government will seek to assess how impaired people who have medicinal cannabis in their system are while driving.

How will the trial work?

Drivers who use medical cannabis will receive driving courses with an instructor at special closed road facilities such as METEC in Bayswater North and AARC in Wensleydale.

Highways and Road Safety Minister Melissa Horne said the trial, carried out in partnership with Swinburne University, would be a world first.

“There is nowhere in the world that has that standard way of measuring impairment through medicinal cannabis,” Ms Horne said.

“It’s a basic human right: We have a legally prescribed medication, let’s be able to measure what that looks like in a traffic safety environment.”

Two hands in black gloves hold the bud of a medicinal cannabis plant in a greenhouse.  More plants grow behind the hands.

While medical cannabis users can drive in Tasmania as long as they are not under the influence of alcohol, the laws are stricter in the rest of the country.(ABC Rural: Else Kennedy)

Around 70 participants will take part in the trial, which will begin in September this year.

Aware , updated