A senior lawyer from Noosa has emerged as an unlikely Senate candidate for the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party in Queensland, in a move designed to bolster the Party’s profile and broaden its appeal at the coming Federal election.
Criminal defence solicitor Bernard Bradley, 52, said his decision to step forward had been prompted by his three decades of experience dealing with clients facing drug-related charges and the sometimes devastating consequences.
Mr Bradley said he was fed up with seeing lives and livelihoods upended by convictions for minor drug use, particularly in cases where people had turned to cannabis to alleviate pain for chronic medical conditions. He added that roadside drug testing for cannabis had compounded the problem, with mandatory disqualification for those who return a positive result.
“These tests are overly sensitive and provide no indication of the level of cannabis in a person’s bloodstream or whether their driving was in any way impaired”. Mr Bradley said. “The manufacturers claim they will only test positive within four hours of using cannabis but time and time again, I’ve had clients who say they had a joint the night before and tested positive the next day”.
“I’ve spoken to many colleagues about this who’ve had the same experience”.
“It amounts to a retrospective possession charge where people automatically lose their licence and the impact of that can be dire. People lose their jobs because they’re unable to get to work or they need their licence for work, they’re unable to get to medical appointments, take kids to school, care for relatives – the list goes on”.
“A Magistrate in northern NSW, David Heilpern, resigned in disgust over this very issue a couple of years ago. It’s ridiculous that the laws are inconsistent around the country and in our national capital, it’s perfectly okay to grow a couple of cannabis plants in your yard, but in Queensland you can be charged with a criminal offence for the same thing”.
Mr Bradley said the benefits of medicinal cannabis for people with chronic pain and illness were well-documented and authorities had acknowledged this by allowing access by prescription. However, he said it remained prohibitively expensive for many people, particularly for those who were unable to work due to their medical conditions.
“I represented a woman in her 70’s recently who was forced to front up to court for growing plants at home to make cannabis oil for relief from chronic arthritis”, Mr Bradley said. “I represented a fellow with shocking PTSD who couldn’t leave the house. He grew his own crop for CBD production and was able to re-join the community as a functioning human being”.
“He was raided and now has a criminal record and pays through the nose for oil of inferior quality”.
“Why on earth should someone have to pay exorbitant prices for a product they could make at home for free? It’s grossly unfair and discriminates against people on meagre incomes who are already suffering”.
We are adults
Mr Bradley said far from being a fringe issue, there are many discreet cannabis users who are law-abiding, responsible citizens who should not have to fear the long arm of the law intruding into their lives.
He said he was not advocating for a ‘free for all’ but the current approach was a waste of police resources and causing unnecessary grief in the community. “There are numerous examples around the world where cannabis has been legalised and the sky hasn’t fallen in”, he said.
“The approach in the ACT and South Australia hasn’t led to negative consequences there. Cannabis was actually legal everywhere in Australia until 1957 when we decided to jump on the USA bandwagon and ban it. It’s time to change these outdated laws and have a uniform approach that treats adults like adults, and in some instances, would be life-changing”.
Bernard Bradley and Suzette Luyken are in Group C on the Senate Ballot Paper for Queensland.
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