Victoria is holding a trial to investigate whether people on medicinal cannabis can drive safely

- May 21, 2024 2 MIN READ
Medicinal cannabis only, m'kay?
The Victorian government has teamed up with Swinburne University to figure out if using doctor-prescribed medicinal cannabis when driving is a problem.

The $4.9 million trial to determine if medicinal cannabis users can drive safely will take place over 18-months on a closed-circuit track that mimics real-world driving conditions. Researchers will review the ability of participants to manage distractions and assess their driving performance including steering, braking and speed control.

Debate around traces of cannabis is drug tests and potential impairment has been a hot topic across Australia, because THC, the active compound in medicinal cannabis can remain in someone’s system for several days after using the drug and any detectable amount is deemed illegal.

Cannabis advocates argue it can be like being charged for having 0.01% blood alcohol.

As with other states, it’s illegal in Victoria to drive with any detectable amount of THC.

The leader of Swinburne’s Drugs and Driving Research Unit, Professor Luke Downey said: “We’re excited to be leading this world first on-track evaluation of the impact of medical cannabis on driving performance, and we support the Victorian Government’s commitment to evidence-based policy for road safety.”

Premier Jacinta Allan said that medicinal cannabis use in Victoria has increased by 700% over the past two years, but there is still limited evidence globally about the impact of THC on driving.

“Under our Government, Victoria was the first state in Australia to legalise access to medicinal cannabis – now our world-first trial will see if those taking this medication can safely get behind the wheel,” she said.

Roads and road safety minister Melissa Horne said: “This is an evidence-based approach – we’re working with researchers from Swinburne University to see whether people can drive with any level of medicinal cannabis without compromising road safety.”

To qualify to be part of the trial, participants must have been prescribed medicinal cannabis for a sleep disorder, chronic pain, or a mental health condition for at least six months. The trial will include pre and post-drive drug impairment screenings.

Alongside the trial, the Government is working with medical professionals to create resources that help doctors consider their patients’ driving needs when prescribing medicinal cannabi and also reviewing the road safety outcomes in other countries .