Australian Civil Society Committee on UN Drug Policy – Joint Submission


One response to “Australian Civil Society Committee on UN Drug Policy – Joint Submission”

  1. David,your points are well taken

    Families & Friends for Drug Law Reform has since 2010 opposed the penalisation of people on the basis of a detectable presence rather than impairment. Penalising mere presence marginalises and stigmatises already marginalised people. It is likely to encourage people to defy the law and thus to promote rather than reduce drug driving under the influence and impede messaging that dissuades people from driving when they are impaired. The following is an adaptation of a submission made on the subject in 2017.
    Measures of impairment are available.

    A British expert panel argued on the basis of an extensive review of the literature and the practice in other countries that it is possible to correlate a level of THC measurable from a blood sample with impairment (K. Wolff, R. Brimblecombe, J.C. Forfar, A.R.Forrest, E. Gilvarry, Johnston, J. Morgan, M.D. Osselton, L. Read & D. Taylor Driving under the influence of drugs: Report from the Expert Panel on Drug (March 2013) In addition, other available tests of impairment used to assess the effects of sleep deprivation and old age could be adapted to assess cannabis impairment..
    Impairment tests
    We note that the UK government was reported as very quick to dismiss impairment test, whilst speakers at the conference expressed the view that it was relatively easy to see if a driver was impaired when pulled over at a roadside check. The use of video recording of tests was also cited.
    It seems eminently practical to develop such tests. What one is really doing is testing certain physical attributes of the human machine. Vision, hand-eye coordination, ability to process information correctly and so on. It would not appear too difficult to build a machine that can do this effectively that could be deployed at the edge of the road perhaps installed in a police wagon.
    The point of such a device is that it could be used extensively, cheaply and randomly. It could also be installed at venues where drugs are likely to be consumed rather like the breathalysers now in pubs. It would also detect impairment caused by tiredness.

    If a person was shown to be impaired then either a saliva or blood test would be taken and tested for drugs – ideally all of the ones used in the UK model. In the first instance such information would provide us with further useful analysis of the effect of drugs on ability to drive.

    Further advantages of impairment test as an approach

    The development of an “impairment testing machine” – dare we call it a ITM – has many positives [driving simulators for use in driver training are already available ( Games parlours have these . Alogrithms are being devised that detect driver alertness (Research on vehicle-based driver status/performance monitoring; development, validation, and refinement of algorithms for detection of driver drowsiness. Final report. These alogrithms could be applied to devices to immobilise vehicles and the same way as car interlock systems that are now being introduced in the ACT for recidivist drink driving offenders). We have suggested above that it could be extensively, objectively and cheaply used. It could also be employed in research on any drugs as a benchmark testing device although we are not sure of ethics here.

    It would appear that through the use of effective marketing such a device could be accepted by the wider community. It is not hard to support the police testing people for impairment to drive. If machines were publicly available then any person have concerns in regards their prescribed medications could run a check themselves. It brings to a focus the importance of being in the right state to driver. It might also be used as a learning aid.

    The ITM provides a strong signal to the person who fails the test that they have not demonstrated competency. They have failed to show their ability to drive. It is not a roundabout argument based on a theoretical level of drugs in the body linked to some odds ratio but actual proof that as a machine they are not up to driving.

    The ITM neatly sidesteps all debate about the ‘safe’ levels of drugs, or indeed which suite of drugs to consider.

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