Drug testing doesn’t make drivers feel safer

WHILE driving through Lismore recently I was pulled over and breathalysed.

There was no “probable cause”: I observe the rules. It was entirely random, and alarming, suddenly catching sight of flashing lights in your rear view mirror.

Continuing home along Bangalow Rd I was tail- gated and overtaken at a speed well beyond the limit. Where was the highway patrolman then?

Drivers on the Northern Rivers have been subjected to this kind of thing – “Operation Saturation” – for months and are getting fed up with it.

Detecting drink-driving is one thing: alcohol is right up there with speed and fatigue as a major cause of fatal accidents.

Reasonable citizens can accept the occasional inconvenience if it helps keep drunks off the road.

Also, crucially, it has a scientific basis. There are established benchmarks, ways of calculating probable impairment. We know where we stand.

Random drug testing is another thing altogether: any traces of a few substances condemn you as a drug-driver. Impairment doesn’t come into it.

In the case of cannabis, the unfairness of this is blinding and the injustices that arise from such obsessive application of a flawed law completely unacceptable.

Any traces of marijuana in a driver’s saliva leads to further testing, criminal charges and, following a court appearance, loss of licence.

But being fat-soluble (as opposed to alcohol), marijuana can remain in the system for weeks after use.

People who choose to relax with a spliff after work instead of a drink face life-changing punishment.

That’s bad enough. With medical cannabis, the wrong is amplified. MardiGrass is fun, but for many, cannabis is a life and death issue.

Across the region, scores of people are choosing to break the law and use medical cannabis to treat a host of maladies. It works when all else has failed.

Some credit it with helping them survive cancer, and they believe their right to health – their survival – trumps any law.

For them, the heavy police presence is stressful – literally sickening – forcing them to stay home, or duck and dive around the back streets like criminals.

It’s not saving lives and according to a survey conducted by this newspaper, makes very few drivers feel safer on the roads.

It’s undiscriminating, cruel and unjust, and drives a wedge between police and the public

It’s bad law, which should be changed; and the police need to stop enforcing it.

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