Four-year ban for drug driver

A MAN who drove erratically on the Calder Highway while high on synthetic cannabis has been slapped with a four-year driving ban.

The 44-year-old veered in and out of his lane during a trip from Bendigo to Mildura on December 12 last year, stopped in the middle of the highway and performed dangerous U-turns on the highway, near Ouyen.

The Mildura Magistrates’ Court this week heard other motorists had to take action to evade the man, who later admitted to having smoked synthetic cannabis that day.

A police prosecutor said: “When asked if he had been smoking the synthetic stuff, he stated ‘it’s not a drug’.”

The man had earlier attracted attention when he blocked the entrance to a Charlton service station and was non-responsive when someone tapped on his window and asked him to move.

He pleaded guilty to charges arising from his substance-affected driving and refusing to provide an oral fluid sample to police from a separate incident in April last year, when police also suspected he was driving under the influence of synthetic cannabis.

Defence counsel Rebecca Boreham told the court the man had since learned police had the power to compel him to go back to the station to provide a sample and accepted that, while synthetic cannabis was not illegal, driving while affected by it was.

She said he was no longer using synthetic cannabis, had not used any other drugs for “some time” and was already on a community corrections order with treatment support in place.

Magistrate Pauline Spencer placed him on another corrections order, requiring him to complete 150 hours of unpaid community work.

The man was hit with a hefty four-year driving ban because of his failure to provide a sample for testing and prior convictions for driving offences.

“You’re not expecting someone to be parked on the middle of a highway when you’re belting along it at 110km/h,” Ms Spencer said.

Last month, Mildura police Inspector John Nolan issued a public warning about the dangers of synthetic cannabis.

He said there was a misconception within the community that synthetic cannabis was safe for use because they had previously been sold in retail outlets.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Insp Nolan said.

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