Australia: 'Passive smoking' defence clears woman of drug driving as research casts doubt on roadside testing - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia'Passive smoking' defence clears woman of drug driving as research casts doubt on roadside testing

01:20  23 may  2019
01:20  23 may  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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The roadside test is likely to catch out cannabis smokers up to 24 hours after use, well after the After many months of research , the experts advised a limit of 5 micrograms. Over twice the limit Passive Smoking – Cannabis. Secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke can produce positive drug

Passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke , called second-hand smoke (SHS), or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), by persons other than the intended "active" smoker . It occurs when tobacco smoke permeates any environment, causing its inhalation by people within that environment.

'Passive smoking' defence clears woman of drug driving as research casts doubt on roadside testing© Gemma Sapwell Police officers take saliva swabs from drivers as part of the roadside drug driving tests.

The accuracy of New South Wales' drug driving tests has been called into question after a "landmark" court ruling and new research by a leading academic.

Data collected by Sydney University has revealed roadside mobile saliva tests returned inaccurate results more than 20 per cent of the time when testing oral fluids for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Researchers at the university's Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics conducted hundreds of tests on drivers with varying levels of THC in their system to study whether there was any link between cannabis and driver impairment.

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The research was conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University and funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to

Drug driving as an offence is more clearly defined than ever before now police roadside procedures and testing are similar to the processes of drink These tests can include a simply finger to nose test to assess judgement and coordination, or include pupillary tests to check for evidence of drug taking

The program's academic director Iain McGregor said the research, which is yet to be published, raised concerns.

"The tests are particularly poor at detecting when people have a lot of THC in their system so they can be really stoned and getting a negative test," he said.

But he said what was even more alarming was the number of false positives recorded.

"We found on occasion the tests gave a false positive when people have very low levels of THC and that is a concern for the carriage of justice, people are not impaired and they have not had cannabis for quite a long time.

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MAJ Law are a market leading drug driving defence firm. Our team of specialist solicitors have years of experience in representing clients throughout courts in England and Wales. This made it an offence to drive a vehicle on a road or public place whilst over a prescribed limit.

A drug test is a technical analysis of a biological specimen, for example urine, hair, blood, breath, sweat, and/or oral fluid/saliva—to determine the presence or absence of specified parent drugs or their metabolites.

"We had someone test positive for THC who was using a placebo," he said.

In a statement to the ABC, the Department of Transport said a Mobile Drug Test (MDT) ran a small risk of a false positive but it was uncommon with around 97 per cent of NSW roadside tests confirmed positive in the laboratory.

New South Wales police use three stages of testing for THC.

The first two tests are done roadside and if the initial test is positive, the sample is sent away to undergo a third laboratory analysis.

Professor McGregor said the "extremely accurate" laboratory result could take months and its high level of sensitivity meant it could detect THC from passive smoking.

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This was illustrated last month when a driver, who had tested positive for cannabis in northern NSW, had her charges dismissed after a magistrate accepted her passive smoking defence.

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Passive smoking means breathing other people's second-hand tobacco smoke . Passive smoking increases the risk of serious illness in both children and adults. A non- smoking pregnant woman is more likely to give birth earlier, and to a baby with a slightly lower birth weight if she is exposed to

The Road Transport Legislation Amendment ( Drug Testing ) Bill was passed in NSW in late 2006, creating new offences for driving with any Drugs can stay in your system longer than alcohol, particularly cannabis. The fact that you smoked pot a week before the roadside test is no defence .

Driver Nicole Spackman said she had not smoked cannabis in the weeks leading up to her roadside test, but she had visited her terminally ill neighbour who was smoking medicinal cannabis in her presence.

The policeargued it was not possible to test positive to THC from passive smoking alone.

However Magistrate David Heilpern ruled the prosecution did not provide enough evidence to refute Ms Spackman's claim.

He added that "scientists do not know everything about THC and its rate and method of absorption".

Ms Spackman's lawyer Steve Bolt said he believed the decision was the first of its kind.

"It's landmark in the sense it's the first case I'm aware of that passive smoking has been accepted as a defence.

"It's significant because it throws into doubt the fairness of the law, that someone can inadvertently have drugs in their system for being a good Samaritan, spending time with a terminally ill friend, not be impaired and still be charged and face losing their licence."

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With the increasing use of legal medicinal cannabis, Professor McGregor said drug drive testing without clear links to impairment was creating challenges for politicians, police, magistrates and users.

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Drugged driving is driving a vehicle while impaired due to the intoxicating effects of recent drug use. Research studies have shown negative effects of marijuana on drivers , including an increase in lane weaving, poor reaction time, and altered attention to the road .

“ Drug - driving is an increasing problem,” said Melanie Bailey of the University of Surrey and co-author of the research published in the journal Analytical Methods. The device, says Bailey, is based on a robust laboratory technique that has been miniaturised to produce the portable roadside test .

Research conducted by Professor McGregor's team found that on some measures, drivers intoxicated with cannabis were safer drivers.

"Drivers using cannabis tend to leave a bigger distance between you and the car in front and your speed tends to be lower.

"But in a situation where you have to process information rapidly, you're not safe if you're intoxicated.

"So I'm certainly not an advocate for driving under the influence of cannabis but it's a mistake to consider that cannabis driving is equivalent to alcohol driving," Professor McGregor said.

The Department of Transport's executive director for road safety Bernard Carlon stood by research which showed THC could affect reaction times to unexpected hazards.

"The simple message is that if you think that you may have illegal drugs in your system, the best decision is not to drive," he said.

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