Archive

Category: Featured

6 posts

Drug Driving Discussion Document

Drug Driving Discussion Document

The Government initiated a discussion document on drugged driving. The deadline for submissions was Friday 28 June 2019. You can find the discussion document detail here.

The #makeitlegal submission is below:

REPRESENTATION TO THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT ON DRUGGED DRIVING

28 June 2019

 WHO ARE WE?

The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is committed to supporting drug law reform research, campaigns and education for the benefit of individuals, whanau and communities. In particular we:

  • undertake and disseminate educational material and research on drug law reform policy and legislation and its impact on individuals, whanau and communities; and
  • support individuals, whanau, communities and organisations in activities that promote drug law reform, particularly the legalisaton of cannabis and
  • support just and rational drug laws that reduce harm and illicit activity; and maximises benefits to individuals, whanau and communities; and
  • provide other support and assistance consistent with our purpose.

The Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust is currently campaigning under #makeitlegal, to raise support for cannabis law reform in the 2020 referendum on the legalisation of cannabis.

 OUR POSITION IN SUMMARY

We commend the Government on its enhanced commitment to road safety, including attempting to grapple with the difficult question of how to regulate drugged driving.

We urge the Government to consider this question within a broader context of driver impairment, regardless of the cause of that impairment.

We consider that impairment testing as it is currently practised is outdated, subjective and inadequate. We recommend that resources go into collaboration with other jurisdictions to develop simple device-based reaction testing as a low-cost screening device for impairment.

Following an impairment screening device, further testing (including substance testing where appropriate) and interventions can be conducted based on the nature and source of the impairment.

OUR CONTACT DETAILS

Sandra Murray

Secretary – Make It Legal Aotearoa New Zealand Trust

Email: sandra@makeitlegal.nz

Phone: 021 890 629

Webpage: www.makeitlegal.nz

 

ORAL SUBMISSION

We wish to make an oral submission on this matter if we can do so by phone or video conference.

 

OUR ANSWERS TO THE DISCUSSION DOCUMENT QUESTIONS

QUESTION 1: Do you think that roadside drug screening is a good option for deterring drug driving and detecting drug drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document?

We agree that some kind of low cost and quick screening device for impairment is desirable, to act as a deterrent to impaired driving.

We do not support roadside drug screening. If the objective is to improve road safety, impairment needs to be the focus, regardless of the source of that impairment. The discussion document points out a number of substances that can cause impairment but which are unlikely to be tested for – synthetics, prescription drugs etc. There is also impairment that is not caused by a substance – lack of sleep, emotional stress etc.

We consider it entirely feasible to develop a simple app, loaded on a mobile device of some kind, that can test, for example, reaction time on a simple task. Failure to achieve a predetermined level can give rise to further testing to determine the cause of the impairment. This allows a quantifiable, objective test of impairment. It would mean a simple, low cost and rapid screening test that could be conducted in a similar way to roadside breath testing for alcohol.

Further interventions, following a failure on the initial screening test, could include:

  1. A more comprehensive (device-based) impairment test to determine the level of impairment. This could be linked to an individual’s base score over time, as the technology and levels of data capture improves.
  2. Blood testing for specified substances considered to present the highest levels of risk to other drivers.
  3. A discussion to see if other causes of impairment can be ascertained (eg.tiredness) and an appropriate response identified (eg prohibited to drive for a period)

 QUESTION 2: Do you support oral fluid screening for roadside drug testing of drivers? Are there other options not mentioned in this Discussion Document that could be considered?

As above

QUESTION 3: Is it reasonable to delay drivers by 3 to 5 minutes to administer a roadside drug screening test, in order to detect drug drivers and remove them from the road?

No. Such a delay would quickly lead to intolerable backlogs. A screening test needs to be able to be completed in around a minute. Our proposal in response to Question 1 would allow that.

QUESTION 4: Is a presence-based, zero-tolerance approach to drug driving, where presence of a drug is sufficient for an offence, appropriate for New Zealand?

No. Such an approach would punish people for behaviour that does not put others at risk. The issue is impairment and driver safety.  The “presence” of a drug i not the same as being impaired. Many
prescription drugs in low doses do not impair, but do in high doses. We already have a tolerated level of alcohol

QUESTION 5: Should there be legal limits for some drugs?

Yes. Any limits should be based on robust science that gives a reliable level for impairment, and reliable testing.

QUESTION 6: If roadside drug screening was introduced, which of the three approaches discussed above do you prefer?

  • Testing under the current ‘good cause to suspect’ criterion
  • Targeted testing following an incident or a driving offence
  • Random roadside drug screening, along the lines of the current breath alcohol testing model.

Are there other approaches that should be considered?

If a roadside screening test for impairment was developed, along the lines outlined in our answer to Question 1, we would support random testing. Otherwise, given the low correlation in substance testing between detection and impairment, we do not support drug screening.

QUESTION 7: If random drug screening was introduced, do you think it is a reasonable and proportionate response to the harm of drug driving? Are there circumstances in which it would be more or less reasonable?

Random testing using a method which is reasonably quick and which reliably tests that people are impaired, such as is the case with alcohol testing or with direct impairment testing as we have outlined in response to Question1, is proportionate to the harm of impaired driving. Otherwise we are not convinced it is.

 QUESTION 8: What criteria should be used to determine if a drug is included, or excluded, from drug screening?

If a secondary screening for substances is used, following an impairment screening as we have outlined in our answer to Question 1, we think that it should be based on robust evidence about which drugs are most likely to lead to accidents and which ones can be reliably tested for levels of impairment. We make the point that this may need to be based on some kind of matrix. A drug which causes moderate impairment but also leads to more risk taking may be a higher risk than a drug which causes higher impairment but leads to more cautious driving.

QUESTION 9: What regulatory process should be used to specify the drugs that are identified for screening?

An Order in Council is the appropriate regulatory process.

QUESTION 10: Should illicit and prescription drugs be treated differently?

No. If prescription drugs state that people should not drive under their influence, and there is robust evidence that they impair driving, then they should be treated the same as illegal drugs.

QUESTION 11: Should there be a medical defence for drivers who have taken prescription drugs in accordance with a prescription from a medical professional?

No. If a prescription drug causes driver impairment, we would expect that using it “in accordance with a prescription” means not driving.

QUESTION 12: If oral fluid testing was introduced in New Zealand, do you think there should be a requirement for a second drug screening test following a failed first test? Do you prefer another option for screening drivers?

Please see our response to Question1.

QUESTION 13: Do you think that drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test? If not, what evidence should be required to establish an offence of drug driving?

Yes. Drug driving offences should be confirmed with an evidentiary blood test

QUESTION 14: Do you think an infringement offence (an instant fine and demerit points) or a criminal penalty (mandatory licence qualification, fines and possible imprisonment) is appropriate for the offence of drug driving?

We consider that an infringement notice for a first offence is appropriate, although higher levels of impairment as demonstrated on an impairment test, and also subsequent offences, might warrant criminal penalties.

QUESTION 15: Is there any other penalty or action in response to the offence of drug driving that you think should be considered?

Understanding the causes of offending and addressing those is usually preferable to simple punishment. We would encourage the Government to look creatively at this.

QUESTION 16: Do you think it is reasonable to penalise drivers who have used drugs, but may not be impaired?

No. The issue we need to address is road incidents caused by impaired driving. Punishing non-impaired drivers does nothing to address that.

QUESTION 17: Do you have anything else you would like to say about drug driving?

Cannabis law reform will have an impact on workplace drug testing and on the enforcement of traffic regulations. Concerns around this have been voiced by employers, unions and the NZ Police. It should be noted, however, that substance testing for impairment is an ineffective health and safety procedure. It rarely tests the number one drug of abuse in the workplace (alcohol) and does not test impairment from cannabis use but rather the presence of long-lived cannabis metabolites.

Cannabis law reform will require that we address these difficult issues, as the simple presence of cannabis metabolites will no longer be grounds for punitive action.

The issue of impairment is not just about cannabis use. Impairment can arise from sleep deprivation, relationship problems, pharmaceutical products and a range of other conditions that are difficult to individually test for.

For this reason:

  • We recommend that driving under the influence of cannabis is prohibited as per existing regulations on impairment.
  • We also recommend that the Government investigate impairment testing (as opposed to substance testing) as a more accurate measure of actual impairment in the workplace.

We also wish to highlight this comment, made publicly by researcher Dr Geoff Noller, PhD, Department of General Practice and Rural Health, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago; in relation to cannabis impairment while driving.

“This is a complicated question, with interpretations of data often ‘muddied’ by unclear data or analyses that conflate historic use of cannabis with actual impairment. Having noted this, a recent detailed US analysis by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), following the legalisation of cannabis in a number of US states suggests that when data are correctly analysed, there appears to be either no elevated crash risk associated with cannabis only, or even a reduced risk of crashes.”

 

 

Donate to #makeitlegal on Give-a-Little

Donate to #makeitlegal on Give-a-Little

#Makeitlegal is the campaign to get a strong YES vote in the upcoming New Zealand Cannabis Referendum – set to be held at the 2020 general elections. This referendum will be binding – meaning if we get more than 50% of voters voting yes, cannabis law reform will happen.

We need to get out to people all through NZ to have conversations about cannabis law reform and what the government is proposing with the referendum. We will need billboards, social media and information to hand out. Our Givealittle page will help us raise the funds we need to do that.

New Zealand is well overdue for a change to our drug laws and the time is now.

All over the world, countries are moving to change their drug laws so that cannabis is dealt with as a health issue, not a crime. Portugal, Canada, Colorado, and California are leading examples of why change is a good thing, with law reform leading to reduced drug use and drug related crime, better healthcare available to people who need it, and fewer people in prison for harmless drug incidents.

But it is expensive to run a referendum campaign, and we are not part of any political party or organisation i.e. we are not funded. And as referendum campaigners will need to follow all the same rules as a political campaign – including financial reporting and limits on what we can do.

So please donate – even $5 can go along way!

What happens to your donation?

Funds will be paid to a verified bank account of the Make It Legal NZ Trust and used for activities to promote the upcoming cannabis referendum and the #makeitlegal campaign e.g. publicity, campaigning, marketing, research and polling. If we raise sufficient funds we will be able to employ a campaign manager and other key people. Having dedicated, skilled campaigners will increase our chances of achieving law reform.

“I believe that drug policy needs to evolve fromcrc@makeitlegal.nz a substance-based to a people-centred approach. Harm reduction, prevention, and evidence-based treatment have shown their effectiveness around the world. I have witnessed this from New Zealand to Belarus. Now is the time to address the policy barriers to better outcomes.”

Helen Clark – Commissioner at the Global Commission on Drug Policy


Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

Drug Policy and Deprivation of Liberty

The new position paper by the Global Commission on Drug Policy shows how the deprivation of liberty for non-violent drug crimes is a wrong and ineffective response, notably because it does not take into account the social and psychological root causes of drug consumption, nor does it consider the economic and social marginalization of low-level actors in the trade. Furthermore, people who are incarcerated are vulnerable, exposed to risks, particularly health risks, for which they are not well-equipped and do not receive adequate care.

In this report, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy analyze the last thirty years of over incarceration in closed settings, from prisons to migrant administrative detention and from mandatory treatment to private rehabilitation centers. The paper highlights the responsibility of the State towards people who are incarcerated, and demonstrates how their health and well-being are at risk.

Download the paper here

An environmental opportunity

An environmental opportunity

In our rush to convince people that legalised cannabis will be strictly managed, we run the risk of forcing our fledgling cannabis industry to adopt the least sustainable practices available. When regulations are being developed by the Health and Justice Ministries, how can we ensure that environmental issues are taken into account?
Canada legalised cannabis last year, introducing strict controls to make sure legally grown cannabis wouldn’t leak into the illicit market – which they were trying to eliminate. They also wanted to make sure children didn’t accidentally consume cannabis products.
This has resulted in many companies cultivating cannabis indoors – a high energy system growing under lights, with air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
Even when cannabis is grown outdoors, intensive cultivation of thirsty plants has the potential to harm rivers and lakes. It is estimated that a cannabis plant uses around 22 litres of water, compared to grape vines which use around 12 litres.
Once gown, Canadian cannabis products tend to be over packaged, with layers of plastic to ensure no-one accidentally consumes cannabis, and to provide space for all the information labeling.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health is developing regulations for medicinal cannabis this coming year. Working in waste, as I do, I can assure you that the health industry does not have a great track record for waste minimisation or environmental considerations. It concerns me that Ministry of Health officials may fail to even consider regulations to encourage this new industry to be sustainable.
And it could easily be a world leader in sustainability.
A new industry, with multiple well-funded companies setting up systems and processes from scratch, could readily ‘gear up’ as sustainable from day one. Instead of layers of wasteful packaging, the new industry could be regulated to introduce sustainable packaging that still ensures products are safe and well labelled
This new funding for developing sustainable packaging could be a shot in the arm for a packaging industry crying out for funding to help them move away from the plastic packaging consumers so dislike. And once established, sustainable packaging regulations could easily be rolled out across all products.
Regulation for cultivation could ensure products are not only high quality and secure, but also minimise environmental impacts. At the very least they could avoid forcing growers into the least sustainable practices, and at best direct them towards methods which cause the least harm.
Regulations should cover aspects such as:
• Sustainable packaging and waste minimisation
• Suitable site locations to minimise environmental harm, including requiring renewable energy use for indoor growing
• Water monitoring and management systems to reduce the need for irrigation
• Compostable waste management during cultivation and guidance on soil health
• Protocols on chemical application – ideally with a focus on organic cultivation
We have an opportunity. A new industry. Let’s not blow it by applying outdated production systems when we could be world leaders with the greenest cannabis products on earth.

By Sandra Murray, Environmental Consultant

Responsible Legal Regulation

Responsible Legal Regulation

What does responsible legal regulation mean?
Under a model with legal regulation, cannabis related activities (use, possession, cultivation, sale etc) are no longer criminal activities, but regulated through administrative laws, as is the case for other products such as alcohol and tobacco.

While offences still occur, these are not criminal offences, but related to failing to adhere to regulations. For example – a person may grow cannabis at home for personal use legally, but if they sell it, they may be fined for unlicensed sale. Or if a licensed supplier sells to a child, they may be prosecuted and fined for underage selling, and have their license revoked.

Legal regulation itself covers a range of scenarios from strict regulation (such as with the regulation of hazardous substances or medicines containing opiates) to responsible regulation (as proposed for cannabis) through to lax regulation (such as with alcohol) and then on to unrestricted access (such as with ice creams and soft drinks). This can be seen in the graph above, taken from Regulation: The responsible Control of Drugs by the Global Commissions on Drug Policy, showing the range of models from decriminalisation through to unrestricted access, and the level of harm each model is likely to result in.

Responsible legal regulation is what is proposed for cannabis.