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Victoria is launching “world first” cannabis driving trial

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A trial will kick off in Victoria later this year to look into the impacts of medicinal cannabis on drivers.
A trial will kick off in Victoria on the impacts of cannabis on drivers.

Victoria will launch a trial to examine the effects of medicinal cannabis on driving.

Motorists in the trial will be supervised on a closed-circuit track, as part of an 18-month study.

It’s currently illegal for anyone to drive with active THC – a chemical found in cannabis – in their system.

The State Government said the trial will be “the first of its kind in the world”.

Medicinal cannabis

Australians have been able to get prescriptions for cannabis from a doctor since 2016.

Cannabis is often prescribed to treat pain, epilepsy, nausea, or insomnia.

Medicinal cannabis use in Victoria has risen by 700% over the past two years, according to the State Government.

Driving

THC can stay active in a person’s system for up to eight hours after it’s consumed.

Driving with active THC in your system is illegal across mainland Australia.

In Tasmania, a medically prescribed user won’t be charged if THC is detected, as long as it’s not found to “impair” their driving.

THC’s impact on a user’s ability to drive is still being researched.

Trial

Last year, the Victorian Government passed laws allowing the driving research trial to go ahead.

This week, it announced more details about the trial, which is expected to get underway within a few months.

Researchers from Swinburne University will monitor 72 drivers on closed-track circuits in Melbourne.

The $4.9 million trial is expected to take around 18 months to complete.

Participants

Eligible participants will need to have been prescribed medicinal cannabis for at least six months.

Researchers will look at how drivers cope in imitated “real-world driving conditions”.

They will specifically analyse how participants in the trial steer, brake, change speed, and handle distractions.

Criticism

Victoria’s Legalise Cannabis Party says the trial has been delayed multiple times by the government, which it described as a “huge blow” for drivers who are restricted by medicinal cannabis use in the state.

Road Safety Minister Melissa Horne rejected the claims of delays. She said the State Government needed time to pass the law and set aside funding for the trial in the budget earlier this month.

Opposition

Last year, Opposition road safety spokesperson Danny O’Brien said any change in road rules would need to balance fairness for medicinal cannabis users with road safety.

It’s not clear whether the Victorian Opposition supports the cannabis driving trial.

TDA reached out to the Opposition for comment but did not receive a reply at the time of posting.

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