Medicinal Cannabis & Driving Legislation in Victoria

In this article, we explore the laws and consequences around driving and medicinal cannabis in Queensland.
Jan 30

Can you drive on medicinal cannabis in Victoria?

Simply put, driving under the influence of medicinal cannabis is not allowed in Victoria. VicRoads - the Government department responsible for managing Victoria’s road network - explicitly states that “it is an offence in Victoria for a person to drive with any amount of THC in their system, including any amount of THC from medicinal cannabis.” Though medicinal cannabis can be legally prescribed in Victoria and the rest of Australia, many Government bodies such as the Victoria Department of Health advise against driving while receiving medicinal cannabis treatment.

What are the laws regarding driving on medicinal cannabis in Victoria?

The main law which governs medicinal cannabis and driving in Victoria is The Road Safety Act 1986. This covers THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active component found in cannabis and medicinal cannabis.

What are the consequences if I’m caught driving under the influence of medicinal cannabis in Victoria?

If you fail a roadside drug test in Victoria after April 18th 2018, VicRoads lists several consequences. For your first offence, VicRoads note that you will receive:

  • receive a fine to the value of three penalty units
  • have your licence or learner permit suspended for six months
  • need to complete a Drug Driver Program in the first three months of your suspension period or your licence/learner permit will be cancelled.

Consequences and penalties become more severe for multiple offences.

Furthermore, there are more severe penalties if you are shown to have failed a Drug Impairment Assessment, which the Victoria Legal Aid commission describes as “a test that police can tell you to do if they suspect that you are driving while you are affected by drugs.” Impairment is more severe, as it shows that drugs present in your system - such as THC - impaired your ability to drive safely. 

As detailed by VicRoads, if you are charged with impairment and it’s your first drug driving offence, you will:

  • go to court
  • receive a fine of up to 12 penalty units
  • have your licence or learner permit cancelled for at least 12 months
  • need to complete an Intensive Drink and Drug Driver Behaviour Change Program
  • have a zero BAC condition for three years.

VicRoads further clarify that further penalties and stronger consequences are given to those with multiple drug-driving offences.

Are the rules different for CBD Oil?

So long as it does not affect your ability to drive, you’re able to drive while taking CBD-only treatments in Victoria. Addressing the subject, VicRoads state: “Patients taking cannabidiol-only medicines can lawfully drive, as long as they are not impaired”. 

Though the Australian Journal of General Practice notes there’s little evidence that CBD treatments impair driving, VicRoads emphasise the importance of checking that treatments patients receive do not contain THC if they plan on driving, stating drivers should ensure to “verify this with the professional who has prescribed the medication, or their pharmacist.”

Is there roadside testing for medicinal cannabis in Victoria?

Yes, there is roadside testing for medicinal cannabis throughout Melbourne and Victoria. The Transport Accident Commission - A Government department responsible for promoting road safety in Victoria - explain that: “Victoria Police have the right to pull drivers over at any time and test their saliva for traces of illicit drugs including THC - the active component in cannabis, methamphetamines and ecstasy.” 

The Transport Accident Commission go on to explain how these tests are carried out, stating that “drivers are asked to provide a saliva sample by placing a small absorbent pad on their tongue for a few seconds."

Victoria Police have come out in support of the accuracy of these tests, stating “In Victoria Police's experience, prescribed oral fluid test devices produce accurate results in most cases. To confirm the result was accurate in your case, Victoria Police will send your oral fluid sample to an approved laboratory for further testing.”

Like blood-alcohol level, is there a certain dosage I can have and be OK to drive in Victoria?

No, the rules around driving and medicinal cannabis are treated differently to alcohol and dosage is not used to measure offences. VicRoads states clearly that “It is an offence in Victoria for a person to drive with any amount of THC in their system.”

Regardless of whether you feel safe to drive, you should not drive if you have THC in your system. As the Australian Journal of General Practice notes, “Patients may test positive for THC even if they do not feel impaired.”   

Furthermore, the Government of Victoria advises that “unlike alcohol, it is not known what dose of THC will cause impairment in most people.” The same Government article also reiterates advice given by other Government bodies, stating “Even if you believe you are not impaired, it is illegal to drive in Victoria with any THC in your system.”

I’ve got a prescription. Am I exempt from cannabis-related driving offences in Victoria?

A medicinal cannabis prescription does not exempt you from drug-driving offences in Victoria. VicRoads are very clear about this on their website, stating: “valid prescription for medicinal cannabis cannot be used as a defence against a charge of testing positive for THC on a roadside drug test.” 

The lack of exemption in Victoria is similar to the rules on driving with medicinal cannabis in New South Wales, where holding a medicinal cannabis prescription can not be used as a defence.

Does being a medicinal cannabis patient affect my car insurance?

Given car insurance policies are dependent on the cover you had, there’s no definitive way to answer whether your treatment will affect your insurance or not.  

Though little is known at present about how treatment will affect car insurance, the drug driving charges have adverse effects on your insurance. Large, well-known insurance firms like AAMI note on their website that driving under the influence of drugs can void your insurance policy. Government advice mirrors these insurance policies, with VicRoads acknowledging that being involved in a motor vehicle crash could “affect vehicle and personal injury insurance claims.”

If you’re considering undergoing medicinal cannabis treatment, it may be worth speaking to your insurer to see how the treatment would affect your policy. 

Potential new developments in Victoria from the Road Safety Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2023

Road Safety Amendment (Medicinal Cannabis) Bill 2023 is currently on its second reading in the parliament of Victoria. As reported by The Guardian, “the bill is designed to allow medicinal cannabis users to drive as part of a closed-circuit trial overseen by the state government.”

While this bill has support from some parliamentarians who would like to see the laws around driving and medicinal cannabis loosened, it’s important to remember that the law remains unchanged. 

For now, those undergoing treatment or thinking of undergoing should note the current guidance from the Victorian Department of Health “that patients do not drive or perform hazardous tasks, such as operating heavy machinery when taking THC containing medicinal cannabis products”. Whatsmore, as the Therapeutic Goods Administration advise, “patients should discuss the implications for safe and legal driving with their doctor”.

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