In summary

  • Swinburne researchers will lead the world-first trial to evaluate whether patients can drive safely while on prescribed medical cannabis
  • The Victorian Government has allocated $4.9 million of funding towards the 18-month trial
  • The trial is a huge step for medical cannabis users in Victoria, with usage surging by 700% over the past two years

Swinburne University of Technology is spearheading a world-first trial to evaluate whether patients can drive safely while on prescribed medical cannabis in Melbourne, Australia. 

The Victorian Government has announced Swinburne as its official research partner, investing $4.9 million to investigate the effects of medical cannabis on people’s driving performance within a controlled track trial.  

Currently, Victorian law prohibits driving with any detectable THC (the active compound in medical cannabis) in a patient’s system, which can remain present for several days after use. 

With medical cannabis usage in Victoria surging by 700% over the past two years, the global evidence regarding THC's influence on driving remains limited.

Lead Researcher from Swinburne University of Technology's Drugs and Driving Research Unit, Professor Luke Downey, says it’s a pioneering study.

“We’re excited to be leading this world first on-track evaluation of the impact of medical cannabis on driving performance, and we support the Victorian Government’s commitment to evidence-based policy for road safety.”  

Trial to replicate real-world driving conditions

Funded by a $4.9 million allocation from the Victorian Budget 2024/25, the historic trial will span across 18-months.

The study will replicate real-world driving conditions on a closed-circuit track, while researchers assess participants' handling of distractions and driving performance, including steering, braking, and speed control.

Swinburne researcher Dr Thomas Arkell says it's important to finally test how medical cannabis effects driving in a real-life scenario.

"When it comes to making policy decisions, you need to know that evidence is robust and applicable as it can be to a real-world environment," he said.

“We know very little about medical cannabis. We have quite a bit of research looking at cannabis generally, but we’re looking at the same plant and compound used for very different reasons and in very different amounts.”

To qualify, participants must have been prescribed medicinal cannabis for sleep disorders, chronic pain, or mental health conditions for at least six months. Eligible participants will then undergo comprehensive pre and post-drive drug impairment screenings.

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