Police roadside drug testing ignores cocaine and lets wealthy users off the hook

Stop evidence free

Police roadside drug testing does not test for cocaine or benzodiazepines, two of the drugs that have the biggest impact on road safety, despite the fact that the testing units police use are entirely capable of doing so.

The Greens are renewing our call to have Police roadside drug testing drastically overhauled to test for all the drugs that are commonly found to impair driving, legal and illegal, and to test at levels that are known to impair driving.

The choice not to test for cocaine is particularly telling given its status as an upper class drug of choice. The most recent National Drug Strategy Household survey shows that cocaine is three times more likely to be consumed by people of higher socio economic status than lower SES. The latest research from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre shows that cocaine is the most expensive commonly available recreational drug in Australia.

The Police Standard Operating Procedures underpinning the roadside drug testing program show the police use a Dräger roadside drug testing device which is publicly advertised as being able to detect drugs including cocaine and benzodiazepines. Oral swabs are also able to detect these drugs. International and Australian research show these are among the most dangerous substances used by drivers.

A comprehensive UK study shows that cocaine was the second most frequently detected illegal drug in traffic fatalities across Europe and the UK. The study outlines that driving while impaired by cocaine leads to an increased risk of accidents. Police also fail to test for benzodiazepines, found in several legal prescriptive drugs, which are the most common drug detected in road traffic accidents.

Despite this evidence NSW Police test only for cannabis, amphetamine and ecstasy.

As reported by Pedestrian.tv

Greens MP David Shoebridge recently launched a ‘impact’ campaign to get NSW Police thinking about why they care about charging people more than they care about getting drug drivers off the road.

But now, the MP has a related note to add to his campaign: why is ~the rich person’s drug~ AKA cocaine not tested for?

The German company Dräger that supplies NSW with the testing machines says it’s entirely possible to test for coke (and a bunch of other drugs), and they boast of the accuracy of such tests.

Shoebridge reckons the coppers are targeting people of certain social classes, and he’s not happy about it:

“At least part of the answer lies in the fact that cocaine is overwhelming used by those with higher incomes and higher socioeconomic status,”

If [NSW Premier Mike] Baird extended the flawed roadside testing regime to cocaine he would get a lot of grief in the Liberal heartland of the eastern and northern suburbs of Sydney”.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported

The NSW Police stands accused of targeting poorer people by choosing not to test for substances preferred by wealthier sections of society such as cocaine.

The police, who are greatly increasing the use of roadside tests across NSW, test for only three types of drugs: cannabis; amphetamines and methamphetamine; and MDMA, the party drug known commonly as “ecstasy” or “molly”.

But it can be revealed that Dräger, the German multinational that supplies police with roadside testing machines, boasts of its capability to detect cocaine and a range of other drugs not currently tested for in NSW.

The Greens’ Justice spokesman, David Shoebridge, has accused the police of targeting drug users from certain social classes.
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“At least part of the answer lies in the fact that cocaine is overwhelming used by those with higher incomes and higher socioeconomic status,” Mr Shoebridge said. “If [Premier Mike] Baird extended the flawed roadside testing regime to cocaine he would get a lot of grief in the Liberal heartland of the eastern and northern suburbs of Sydney”.

National surveys have found cocaine is used at the same rate in the broader population as amphetamine, by about 2.1 per cent of all Australians in the past 12 months.

But the drug is used at different rates by different sections of society.

The most “socio-economically advantaged” 20 per cent of Australian society uses cocaine three times more than the bottom 20 per cent, according to 2013 federal government research.

Conversely, methamphetamine and amphetamine were found to be slightly more preferred by people in the lowest socio-economic grouping.

MDMA was much more favoured for by the wealthy, according to the survey: 1.6 per cent of the poorest people had used it recently, compared to 2.9 per cent of the most advantaged.

Deputy Premier Troy Grant announced plans to triple roadside drug testing to 97,000 tests each year by 2017.

Mr Grant,a former police inspector in central NSW, has promised to “throw millions” at roadside testing but has ducked calls to expand the tests to prescription medication.

Mr Shoebridge has criticised the police for punishing users for cannabis smoked the day before and which may be latent and detectable and in users’ saliva but no longer impairing their faculties.

He has also previously called for testing to be applied to prescription medication, such as benzodiazepines, a class of muscle relaxants and sedatives, most famously associated with the brand name Valium.

“”Roadside drug testing needs to be drastically changed to test for all the drugs that are commonly found to impair driving […] at levels that impair driving,” Mr Shoebridge said.

Listen to David Shoebridge MLC talking to 2UE Sydney

Sign up to the petition to stop evidence-free roadside drug testing here. Its time to end the nonsense and ideology driving police roadside drug testing and test for all the drugs that are commonly found to impair driving, legal and illegal, at levels that are known to impair driving.

The NSW Police standard operating procedures that confirm they are not drug testing for impairment can be found here

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