Discussion paper on drug testing

Thursday, 25 March, 2010

The Canberra government's Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, recently issued a discussion paper on random roadside drug testing, calling on Canberrans to find out more about the matter and to express their views on the paper.

The Minister wants the community to understood that random roadside drug testing is much more expensive than breath-testing for alcohol - as much as $40 per driver tested, compared with a few cents for a breath test. It is also much more time-consuming, potentially delaying motorists by the roadside for at least several minutes. Nor could any current tests be used to test for a full range of illicit substances.

“I think most Canberrans would intuitively support the introduction of a random roadside drug testing, just as they support and accept roadside testing for drink-driving,” Stanhope said. “The government shares that in-principle support, but the deeper we delve into the detail, the more apparent it becomes that we need to draft the right legislation - legislation that will work - rather than simply voting for the first piece of available law.

“We want to get it right and we also want Canberrans to understand up-front that any scheme worth having will come at a cost - a financial cost and also a cost in terms of the inconvenience it will cause to ordinary motorists.

“There are many issues to be worked through. Do we test saliva, urine or blood? Do we simply test for the presence of a drug, or do we try to decide that certain levels of a drug are ‘safe’ while higher levels lead to impaired driving? What about drivers who are detected driving with prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs that are also known to impair performance? Would police be entitled to search the cars of those detected with drugs in their systems?”

The government will shortly release an exposure draft of the legislation and Canberrans are invited to have input into the final form of that Bill. The discussion paper is available on the TAMS website and submissions close on Friday 23 April 2010.

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