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Australia's First Busted Drug Driver Pleads Innocence

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Saturday, December 18, 2004
An Australian driver snared in a random drug test who tested positive for both amphetamine and marijuana has denied both charges and threatened to sue cops for defamation of character after he was publicly identified as the world's first driver to test positive for drugs.

"I have never taken methamphetamine," the 39 year old lorry driver told the Melbourne Age this week. "When the second test came up positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient of marijuana), they told me I must have consumed it within the past two hours. I had already told them beforehand I had some marijuana some four weeks ago," he protested.

The case prompted an immediate response from Australian drugs education group VIVAIDS and Fitzroy Legal Service who challenged the accuracy of swab tests and also the wider implications of random testing.

"Anyone charged with drug driving will be identified on their driving records as a drug user," Fitzroy Legal Service principal solicitor Stan Winford pointed out, "and exposed to discrimination in employment or other fields, affecting their livelihoods and their families."

The story is likely to have particular significance for the UK, where London authorities launched their own campaign against drug driving last week.

"We know there are people who would not dream of drinking and driving but who would happily drop a few Es or smoke a few spliffs," David MacKintosh from the London Drug Policy Forum told the Standard.

"We want to alert them that drug-driving has the same penalties as drink driving and impairs them in the same way," he claimed.

The drug testing issue regarding cannabis remains particularly controversial since numerous studies have failed to prove smoking adversely affects driving.

Professor Jack Maclean, director of the road accident research unit at Adelaide University, said in 2001 that "while there was no doubt alcohol affected driving adversely, that was not the case with marijuana'.

"It has been impossible to prove marijuana affects driving adversely," the Professor told the Australian Driver Fatigue Conference in Sydney.

"There is no doubt marijuana affects performance but it may be it affects it in a favourable way by reducing risk-taking," he suggested.