New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Monday that the state government would be strengthening its laws and doubling roadside drug testing in 2018.
The announcement came after 392 people lost their lives on NSW roads in 2017, with 36 of those accidents in the first half of the year directly linked to drug-affected drivers.
Roadside drug tests in the state will be doubled from 100,000 a year to 200,000 a year by 2020.
The premier also announced NSW Police would be adding cocaine to its list of drugs subject to roadside testing, a change that will likely encourage many of the program's detractors. In 2017, one of the constant criticisms of the state's drug testing was that it hadn't been testing for cocaine.
Last year, Greens MP David Shoebridge called the roadside testing program an "unscientific" and "blunt" instrument – especially when it comes to testing for cannabis.
"One of the key reasons police oppose medicinal cannabis was they were concerned it would stuff around their roadside drug testing regimes," he told BuzzFeed News last year.
On Monday, Shoebridge echoed his previous sentiment.
"Cannabis consumed days, or even a week ago, can still trigger a positive test," he said in a statement.
"In one case a person was charged after having consumed cannabis a full nine days before driving. If the goal of the testing program is road safety and punishment, why are cases like this occurring? Police are testing and charging people who smoked a joint last week but letting drivers impaired by benzodiazepines slip through tests undetected."
The drug swabs used by NSW Police to test for cannabis currently only search for traces of the drug, and not impairment, which has been a cause of concern for medicinal cannabis users.
However, the government plans to consult with health experts and provide appropriate restrictions on people who drive after using prescription drugs.
Brad Esposito is a news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Brad Esposito at email@example.com.
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