ACT News

Man escapes conviction for driving under influence of drugs after eating hemp seeds

Magistrate Bernadette Boss has urged authorities to test hemp seeds to see if they  trigger police drug-driving ...
Magistrate Bernadette Boss has urged authorities to test hemp seeds to see if they trigger police drug-driving screening tests.  Photo: Supplied

A Canberra magistrate has urged ACT lawmakers to test hemp seeds to see if they could trigger drug-driving screening tests used by police on the territory's roads.

Magistrate Bernadette Boss made the statement as she declined to convict a Hackett man who tested positive to driving with cannabis in his system.

Timothy Neil Pendelton, 33, pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to drug driving.

But he asked the court to deal with the matter by way of a section 17, which would mean a conviction would not be recorded.

Court documents said police pulled over Mr Pendelton for random testing in Lyneham about 2.25pm on August 7.

He passed an alcohol screening test, but tested positive to THC, the chemical that gives cannabis its psychological effects.


Police noted that Pendelton had watery, bloodshot eyes, and slow speech at the time.

Mr Pendelton told the court on Monday that he had not used cannabis and claimed the positive result had been caused because he had been eating products that contained hemp seeds, including hemp protein, at the time of the test.

The products are legally available for purchase from health food stores.

"I don't smoke drugs," he said.

Mr Pendelton cited a previous Magistrates Court case in which a 37-year-old Canberra woman's drug-drive case had been dismissed because she had been eating gluten-free muesli that contained the seeds.

A medical report received by prosecutors in that case acknowledged that he seeds could have resulted in the low level of THC found in her system.

Mr Pendelton requested that the court dispose of his case in the same manner.

Dr Boss granted the non-conviction order, saying that it was incumbent on the state to prove that the hemp could not trigger the same result as cannabis in a roadside drug test.

The magistrate said Mr Pendelton's presentation of bloodshot eyes and slow speech could be for other reasons than being affected by drugs.

She advised Mr Pendelton to stop eating the hemp seed products until the effects could be researched.

Dr Boss urged the authorities to arrange testing to ensure the courts did not face similar situations in the future.

Since the 2011 inception, the road safety laws have received criticism for the zero-tolerance approach that criminalises all drugs found in a driver's system.

Lawyers and civil libertarians have previously voiced concerns that the laws ignored impairment levels and could snare motorists who had innocently ingested drugs.

The approach differs to drink-driving laws, under which drivers are allowed to consume a legal minimum because it does not impair their ability to drive.

Mr Pendelton smiled and said "winner" as he left the court.