In an Australian first, the state government could begin to treat medicinal cannabis the same as other medications as part of a plan to be drafted over coming months in consultation with MPs, police and doctors and expected to be implemented early next year.
Medicinal cannabis prescribed by doctors has been legal in Victoria since 2015, but it remains an offence for drivers, regardless of their medical status, to have the drug in their systems.
Wednesday’s announcement comes after a five-year campaign by Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, who has argued it is unfair for doctors to prescribe cannabis for patients who are unable to drive after taking the medication.
Labor MP Harriet Shing told State Parliament on Wednesday that the government’s “implementation group”, overseen by the Department of Justice and Community Safety, would report by December 18.
She said the move recognised roadside tests at present picked up only the presence of cannabis in a driver’s system, without accounting for whether drivers were impaired or not.
“I know that this is a theme which has persisted throughout a range of different sectors and industries, and it’s something which I think globally we are working toward finding some more certainty on,” Ms Shing said.
Ms Patten said there were about 4000 users of medicinal cannabis in Victoria who could instantly benefit from changes to the law.
“Australia is the only jurisdiction that prevents medicinal cannabis patients from driving 24/7 and it is simply unfair,” Ms 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.”