Driving with marijuana in your system – The argument for and against
DOES MARIJUANA EFFECT DRIVING?
As cannabis prohibition laws become more debated by the day, it’s allowing more research to be performed on this psychoactive substance that has long been a part of the human experience.
The first study to analyse the effects of marijuana on driving performance found that it caused only limited impairment. The impairment that it did cause was similar to that observed under the influence of a legal alcohol limit.
THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR
Researchers at the University of Iowa’s National Advanced Driving Simulator carried out the study, sponsored by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and report as follows:
“Once in the simulator—a 1996 Malibu sedan mounted in a 24-feet diameter dome—the drivers were assessed on weaving within the lane, how often the car left the lane, and the speed of the weaving. Drivers with only alcohol in their systems showed impairment in all three areas while those strictly under the influence of vaporized cannabis only demonstrated problems weaving within the lane. Drivers with blood concentrations of 13.1 ug/L THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, showed increased weaving that was similar to those with a .08 breath alcohol concentration, the legal limit in most states. The legal limit for THC in Washington and Colorado is 5 ug/L, the same amount other states have considered.”
An amazing study authored by professors D. Mark Anderson (University of Montana) and Daniel Rees (University of Colorado) shows that traffic deaths have been reduced in states where medical marijuana is legalised. According to their findings, the use of medical marijuana has caused traffic related fatalities to fall by nearly nine per cent in states that have legalized medical marijuana (via The Truth About Cars).
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST
Others have by way of an analysis of several studies that the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash significantly increases after using marijuana. Another meta-analysis estimates that the risk of a crash that results in serious injury or death doubles after marijuana use.
In the 2015 “Traffic Safety Facts: Drug and Alcohol Crash Risk” report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that THC increased crash risk by 1.25 times. This figure took into account contributing factors such as alcohol use and testing procedures for intoxication, so it is actually lower than some contradictory reports.
WHAT IS DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF A DRUG?
Driving with the presence of certain drugs (other than alcohol) in oral fluid, blood or urine is an offence commonly known as Drug Driving. The most common way people are being charged with drug-driving offences are through the Mobile Drug Testing (“MDT”) units being conducted by NSW police. This gives the police an oral fluid sample.
Simply having a proscribed drug present in your system is enough to support a charge of drug driving.
Section 4 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW) defines prescribed illicit drugs as follows:
Active THC (Cannabis)
Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (MDMA or ‘ecstasy’)
Morphine (unless proven for medicinal use)
The Law in relation to Drive while there is a prescribed illicit substance present in an oral fluid, blood or urine sample is found in section 111 of the Road Transport Act 2013(NSW) which states:
“A person must not, while there is present in the person’s oral fluid, blood or urine any prescribed illicit drug:
drive a motor vehicle, or occupy the driving seat of a motor vehicle and attempt to put the motor vehicle in motion, or
if the person is the holder of an applicable driver licence (other than an applicable provisional licence or applicable learner licence)-occupy the seat in a motor vehicle next to a learner driver who is driving the vehicle.”
WHAT MUST THE PROSECUTION PROVE?
Since Drive while there is a prescribed illicit substance present in an oral fluid, blood or urine sample is a criminal offence, the burden of proof lies on the Prosecution. The prosecution must prove the Accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
That is a high standard of proof that the prosecution must achieve before someone can be convicted of Drive while there is a prescribed illicit substance present in an oral fluid, blood or urine sample.
To establish Drive while there is a prescribed illicit substance present in an oral fluid, blood or urine sample the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond reasonable doubt:
You drove a motor vehicle, or
occupied the driving seat of a motor vehicle and attempted to put the motor vehicle in motion, or
If the person is the holder of an applicable driver licence (other than an applicable provisional licence or applicable learner licence)-occupied the seat in a motor vehicle next to a learner driver who is driving the vehicle AND
There was the presence of prescribed illicit drug in person’s oral fluid, blood or urine.
The drug tests used by police are notoriously unreliable, and they can show up positive days after an alleged offender has taken any drugs. Also, there are certain procedures that police must undergo when testing a person for drugs, and if you can show that they have gone against procedure when obtaining the evidence against you, you could have the charges withdrawn.
Some of the other possible defences available for those charged with Drive while there is a prescribed illicit substance present in an oral fluid, blood or urine sample can include:
- Honest and reasonable mistake – this is where you honestly and reasonably believe that you do not have drugs in your system. An example of this is because your food or drink had been spiked;
- Alternatively, if a drug is in your system for medicinal purposes and taken in accordance with your prescription; or
- If there has been a testing mistake or the results are inconsistent you may have a defence.
IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH DRUG DRIVING?
National Criminal Lawyers only employ the best Criminal Lawyers Sydney has to offer. Moreover, we have been successful in defending a number of Drug Driving Charges where the prosecution could not establish each of the elements of Drug Driving.
NCL offer the following options for those who have been charged with a criminal offence;
We will negotiate with prosecutors (police or DPP) (a term referred to as “plea negotiations”) to request that the charge is withdrawn, downgraded or fact sheets amended;
We can on your instructions facilitate a plea of Not Guilty and go to hearing/trial and attempt to persuade the Court that prosecution has not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt;
We can on your instructions facilitate a plea of guilty to the elements of the charge and then dispute the facts (at a special “disputed facts” hearing) with the view of having you sentenced less harshly; and/or
Plead guilty with full acceptance of the facts as set out by the police and make strong submissions on your behalf requesting that the Court not record a criminal conviction or have you sentenced to the least restrictive penalty available.
WHY NATIONAL CRIMINAL LAWYERS?
There are many reasons to choose National Criminal Lawyers;
We understand that one of the worst consequences of a criminal charge is the damage to your reputation. As one of the top law firms Sydney has on offer we ALWAYS seek to restore your reputation;
Our clients Testimonials are glowing and our customers/clients speak for themselves. For consideration of these testimonials see nationalcriminallawyers.com.au and/or check out our google reviews;
We always guide you through the preparation work required and assist in helping you provide everything needed to go to court.
We always guide you through obtaining the best of character references and letters of apology. We also use the best psychologists, medical and other experts;
We guarantee that a Senior Criminal Defence Lawyer from Sydney will represent you. This means that with our over 25 years of Combined criminal law experience you will get the best result possible and will not be subjected to a Junior or recently graduated Lawyer;
We are the experts in either beating or having criminal charges withdrawn AND/OR obtaining the least restrictive penalty available; and
We know that Criminal Law is a matter of Human Rights. As such we take pride and passion in representing our clients. You can always rest assured that National Criminal Lawyers are the best defenders of your rights;