by Olivier on 28/06/2018 | Consumption

Cannabis and driving in the Netherlands – Part 4: The human toll

Cannabis and driving With anything related to driving, Dutch law is merciless. It is not just recreational users who are punished, but also those who use cannabis for medicinal reasons. Why this does not actually help road safety is explained in an exclusive multi-part series from the Cannabis News Network. In Part 4, the focus is on the human toll.

Since 1 July 2017, police have been testing drivers not only for alcohol but also for other substances such as amphetamine, cocaine and cannabis. Anyone who is over a given limit will face sanctions.

The consequences of this policy are gradually becoming clear. Even people who use cannabis for medicinal purposes are being dealt with harshly. One of them is Shiva Spaarenberg, who experienced at first hand the far-reaching consequences of cannabis consumption in traffic.

When honesty becomes a handicap

On 27 December 2016, Shiva was spot-checked in traffic by the police. When the police inquired about the cannabis smell in her car, Shiva admitted to having smoked a joint, as she has been suffering from migraine and muscle tension for years. Much to her surprise, Shiva was allowed to drive on without being fined. However, her honesty would backfire.

One month later, Shiva received a letter from the Dutch Driving Licence Authority (CBR), informing her that legal action would be taken against her on the grounds of a drugs offence. Shiva had to hand in her driving licence.

An interesting paradox in this whole affair is that CBR never tested Shiva’s ability to drive. Cannabis News Network wanted to get to the bottom of this and sent Shiva to Wageningen to have her ability to drive tested by an independent expert.

The expert gave the all clear, saying, “I don’t see any difference between your driving and that of others. It could even be that you drive slightly better and calmer having used a small amount of cannabis.”

The Dutch Association of Pharmacists is also of the opinion that cannabis patients who take their medicine regularly do not constitute a danger in traffic. The package insert for medicinal cannabis states that participation in motorised traffic is allowed after a 14-day adaptation period. In practice, however, things go differently. Patients like Shiva are punished, whether they drive safely or not.

“It offends me to read about illegal drugs misuse in the CBR’s correspondence to describe my use of medicine. I find it equally offensive that my openness and truthfulness have so far only backfired on me,” Shiva said during a hearing at the CBR.

Tens of thousands of cannabis consumers in the Netherlands face the same danger as Shiva, namely to be drawn into a bureaucratic nightmare and to lose their driving licences for a long time.

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