Oz Blog News Commentary

The stupidity of Michael McCormack

October 6, 2019 - 11:57 -- Admin

The Australian Capital
Territory (ACT) has recently become the first jurisdiction in Australia to
legalise cannabis for personal use. This allows a person over 18 years of age to
possess up to 50 grams of marijuana and two plants. Of course, the Liberal opposition opposed the bill believing it would
lead to more people using cannabis which they said would lead to an increased rate
of psychosis and more instances of drug-driving. The law conflicts with Commonwealth
law, but the backbencher who introduced the bill doesn’t think it likely that
the federal government would fight this. Indeed, federal attorney-general,
Christian Porter said it was a matter for the ACT. This is surprising, given
that Coalition governments have overturned territory laws before, in 1995, when
the Northern Territory legalised voluntary euthanasia, and when the ACT legalised
same-sex marriage in 20131.

It seems that Christian Porter did
not talk to leader of the parliamentary National Party and deputy Prime
Minister, Michael McCormack, before the latter ranted in the Daily Bellylaugh. In
his opinion piece, McCormack stated that he has overall responsibility for road
safety and fears all these doped-up territorians tearing about the ACT roads as
high as kites2. On the surface, this would appear to the average conservative
nutter to be a reasonable thing for McCormack to say, but it is not. Firstly,
in Victoria, where cannabis is still illegal, in 2018, 4634 people were changed
with a drug driving offence, while 5164 were changed with drunk driving. Secondly,
with alcohol there is a threshold of 0.05% blood concentration, but with cannabis
there is no threshold. Therefore, any amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, the
active ingredient in cannabis) detected in the roadside test qualifies as an
illegal amount3,4. I have driven numerous times under the influence
of alcohol, it’s just that my levels were below 0.05% which makes them entirely
legal. At about 0.05% blood alcohol concentration is when the negative effects
of alcohol start to kick in, and that is presumably why the threshold is set at
that level. Alcohol can be detected in the bloodstream for up to 12 hours, but
this depends on many factors, such as age, gender, body composition and overall

Numerous studies of the effects of
THC on driving have been undertaken with mixed results, but several have shown limited
evidence of causality5. In addition, THC can stick around for longer
than alcohol, and the standard saliva test can detect THC for about 24 hours
after use, with some saliva tests detecting it as much as 3 days after use.
Strangely, THC disappears from the bloodstream much faster than alcohol6.

McCormack also uses the standard conservative
technique of associating only vaguely connected facts, insinuating they are
connected. This he does with the road toll which as of September, stood at
around 826 fatalities for the year, this while Cannabis was illegal in all
states and territories. For someone with overall responsibility for road
safety, he seems alarmingly unsuccessful. McCormack then lists a few
disconnected other facts as if to support his argument that territorians will
have more car accidents. He lists the statistics in Colorado which, along with
Washington and Oregon and seven other states in the US, legalised recreational
marijuana use. There was an increase in road fatalities, to the tune of about
an extra 1 per million residents. However, this increase was temporary, and the
fatality rate went back to ‘normal’ after about a year. It was suspected that
this temporary increase in fatalities was due to an increase in numbers of new or
less experienced cannabis users7. McCormack then goes onto New
Zealand, where possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal8.
Despite this, new research has shown that more people died on New Zealand roads
after collisions involving drug-drivers than drunk-drivers, but at the time (June,
2018), there was no test available to New Zealand police like the saliva test
used by police in Australia9. So, McCormack is at best being disingenuous
and, at worst, lying by omission. This is a common method used by government members
of parliament10.

Just as an aside, Portugal
decriminalised all drug use in 200111 and since the late 1990s road
fatalities in Portugal have decreased 82%12. While there is likely
no causal relationship, it makes you wonder about McCormack’s predictions of
road chaos should the federal government allow the legalisation of cannabis in
the ACT to go ahead. Given that over the same time interval, road deaths in
Australia have declined from about 2,000 to about 1,100 per annum (a decrease
of about 45%)13, it also makes you wonder about the abilities of
those with overall responsibility for road safety over that time interval. So,
McCormack’s opinion piece is not based on any substantial evidence, it is simply
an idiotic tirade against a relatively popular Labor-Greens government which make
his chaotic federal Coalition government look even more ridiculous.


  2. McCormack, M., Road
    safety goes up in smoke thanks to dopes.
    The Daily Telegraph, October 2,

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