A Lismore lawyer has criticised current drug-driving legislation, saying it targets drug users but doesn't make our roads safer.
A Lismore lawyer has criticised current drug-driving legislation, saying it targets drug users but doesn't make our roads safer. Marc Stapelberg

Drug-drive laws aren't making our roads safer: Lawyer

A LISMORE lawyer has criticised the way motorists are punished for having minute amounts of illicit drugs in their system.

Steve Bolt, who represented 34-year-old Robert Collier in a drug-driving case before Lismore Local Court, said he was "pleased" with a judgment handed down this week by Magistrate David Heilpern.

Mr Heilpern found Mr Collier not guilty of driving with an illicit drug in his system.

He had returned a positive roadside test for THC while on his way to work at the Nimbin Mardigrass festival last year.

Mr Bolt had used the defence of mistaken truth after his client sought advice from the NSW Centre for Road Safety website which suggested cannabis could remain in your system for up to 12 hours.

Mr Collier had waited much longer than this, but still tested positive.

Responding to the judgment, Mr Bolt said the vast majority of drug-driving cases he'd seen before the courts involved the charge his client was facing.

This charge doesn't require the driver to be impaired in any way by a drug; there's a separate, more serious, charge for that offence.

During judgment in Mr Collier's case on Wednesday, Mr Heilpern said he'd seen many cases of people pleading guilty - so having nothing to gain from any argument - but claiming they had consumed cannabis well outside of that 12-hour window.

"That information has not been proved to be not correct," Mr Bolt said.

"It has not been proved that those people are lying."

Yet, he said it was "the lived experience of the court" that "a large number of people" routinely faced the charge in circumstances that were completely at odds with the State Government's own advice to motorists.

Mr Bolt said rather than improved studied on the issue, he'd like to see "a whole rethink about the law".

"I think the law should be pretty much abandoned," he said.

"I don't think there's any evidence that this law has had any positive impact on reducing car accidents, reducing the level of injury, reducing death.

"Driving under the influence of a drug is a different law.

"I have no drama with that at all. I think it's a sensible law."

But he said the charge currently arising from a minuscule amount of drugs in your system was punishing people for their drug use, rather than improving road safety in any material way.

With some residents now able to access medicinal cannabis, Mr Bolt said the current law could be cause for further tensions.

The Centre for Road Safety said general information on its website was "based on the test devices used for roadside screening in NSW" and had been "verified with an expert pharmacologist".

"It makes very clear that the actual time that a substance is detectable in a person's system depends on the drug or drugs taken, the dosage and the potency of the drug," they said.

"Individuals vary, and heavy or excessive drug use may extend the effects of different drugs."

Read the CRS' full statement here.