Leading protagonists held by police in fight to protect cannabis patients.
Australian 'kings of Cannabis' on a war path.
Sydney, Australia --News Direct-- Who Are We Hurting?
Article written by Rip Nicholson
When kissing a loved one amounts to having your business and your earnings taken from you, two founding members of a pro-cannabis collective have taken their fight to the powers that be and have since been fined by NSW Police for protesting cannabis laws in urgent need of review.
Two members of a group of activists asking the question ‘WHO ARE WE HURTING?’ artist Alec “Craze” Zammitt and pro athlete turned entrepreneur and podcaster, William “Willy Biggs” Stolk - jointly known as the Australian ‘Kings of Cannabis’ - have fought on many battlefields for the advocacy of drug reform policy in Australia. Along with Sydney Opera House and harbour bridge projections, the group of activists have worked alongside the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party (formerly the HEMP party) through a series of well-orchestrated and very daring public awareness and guerrilla campaigns and protests which have each proved to be successful.
Who Are We Hurting? Australian 420 Protests.
The latest ‘Who Are We Hurting?’ installation ‘Opera House laser beam stunt’ as coined by The Daily Telegraph saw the pair projecting pro-cannabis slogans across the famous white sails of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the wee hours of 20 April, this year (also known as 420 - the international day to celebrate the cannabis plant). Using industrial projectors to illuminate the question, ‘420’ and dancing cannabis leaf animations across the iconic landmarks, the event was posted and shared throughout social media.
How a kiss can get you prosecuted under broken driving legislation.
In 2020, Zammitt, a former owner of a private security firm, had his licence to operate his business revoked due to a positive roadside test finding traces of cannabis in his system, thus stripping him of his ability to operate the enterprise. Zammitt along with representation from Mark Davis of Sydney City Crime disputed these results from NSW’s Government’s controversial mobile drug testing program insisting the positive test was most likely caused by cross-contamination by way of intimacy with his partner, a fellow medicinal cannabis patient. After being reviewed by an expert doctor in the field, it was found to be entirely possible that the cannabis detected in Zammitt’s system was picked up from a kiss exchanged with his partner prior to driving the car in which he was tested. Zammitt received two no-convictions for driving with cannabis in his system and was allowed to maintain his driving licence. Despite this, the NSW Police revoked Zammitt’s licence to operate his business. Without further evidence to suggest Zammitt was indeed under the influence of cannabis or any requirement for Zammitt to be removed from the roads, Zammitt believes his vehicle was targeted due to prior protests and his case shines a light on the many flaws present within the mobile roadside drug test systems throughout most Australian states.
“This has become a de facto means of drug testing all citizens, and they’re doing it through licensing,” said Mark Davis.
“There’s no onus on the police to prove these people were affected by drugs in any way, but you still have hundreds of people ending up with criminal convictions – even for trace elements in their system,” said Davis.
58-year-old Magistrate David Heilpern has retired after 21 years in service after stating he could not in good conscience continue to apply the law as stated and take away licences for drug driving out of his Lismore court — sometimes as many as 30 in a day. David Heilpern has since annonced his involvement as campaign lead for Drive Change, an initiative dedicated to fixing this legislation in Australia.
"An enormous number, the vast majority of people who are brought before the courts on this charge, are not affected [by the drug]," says Heilpern.
Mr Heilpern says there's not enough evidence to suggest a clear link between a positive test for cannabis and adverse driving, given the minute levels of the drug detected in roadside tests.
"When they introduced random breath testing, the road toll decreased massively. When they introduced seatbelt laws, there was a reduction in the road toll,” said Heilpern. “I have seen nothing to show that there is any reduction in the road toll as a result of the thousands and thousands of people who are appearing before courts for historic use of cannabis."
Cannabis has been legal in Australia for years now.
Doctors at MediCann Clinics, the clinic prescribing Zammitt must advise patients that they cannot legally drive if there is any THC in their system. Clinic founder, Matthew Shales gets first-hand reports of the very real frustrations that come from drug driving laws as they stand. Shales is a committed advocate for his patients’ right to not be discriminated against with the current driving laws in Australia prohibiting cannabis from being present in the system.
“Unfortunately, as the rules currently stand, we have to advise our patients that they cannot legally drive if there is any THC in their system, even if they are not impaired,” said Shales.
“This has negative impacts for patients by either forcing isolation through not being able to drive or through a heightened level of anxiety for the patients that choose to drive, which is the opposite outcome we are hoping to achieve by prescribing patients medicinal cannabis.
NSW Government’s controversial mobile drug testing program has come under scrutiny following a recent study released by the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics at the University of Sydney, comparing the length of time in which someone is likely to be impaired by cannabis to the duration of the time it can be detected in their system. The study found that a user’s impairment is likely to last three to 10 hours but can be detected in the body for weeks after consumption.
Currently, a medicinal driving defence amendment - The Road Transport Amendment Bill (Medicinal Cannabis – Exemptions from Offences) Bill, 2021 is before parliament in deliberation with NSW Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann heading up the passing of the Bill in the near future. The strength of which is geared around gathering traction of enough support through the committee report. However, questions remain on what experts are to be heard from and ultimately, who is responsible for the final decision. Here, the fight continues as to whether those who require medical cannabis can be free to drive without fear of a positive roadside drug test.
“Current driving laws in Australia are forcing patients to choose between their medicine or their independence. We are trying to improve the quality of life for our patients, yet the ancient driving laws currently in place make it exceedingly hard to do so.” said Shales.
Zammitt and Stolk’s current case is not without precedent. Theirs is not dissimilar to that of the 2018 actions of comedy group and tv show The Chasers who projected radio broadcaster Alan Jones phone number alongside "Advertise Here, Call Alan'' on the same very sails of the Opera House on which Zammitt and Stolk would later be charged for ‘advertising’. Despite the widespread media coverage, The Chasers were not investigated by police. Zammitt and Stolk have been issued infringement notices relating to offences that uniquely apply only to the Opera House under obscure legislation known as the Sydney Opera House Trust By-law 2021. Similar legislation titled 2015 applied at the time of The Chasers projection. The maximum fine for the infringements against Zammitt and Stolk is $1,100 for each offence and is set for a hearing on 20 December.
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