Drug driving conviction revoked after appeal on medical grounds

A Candelo woman who used cannabis to treat an incurable neurological disorder has had a drug driving conviction quashed on appeal.

Sonja Elizabeth Ward was found guilty in Bega Local Court on September 27 of driving with cannabis in her system after she was pulled over on her way to work one morning in June.

The magistrate convicted Ward of the offence, fined her $400 and disqualified her from driving for three months.

However, she appealed the decision to the NSW District Court claiming it was too severe, as she was also the sole holder of a driver’s licence at home.

In court on Wednesday, October 26, Judge Raymond McLoughlin agreed to void the conviction in lieu of a good behaviour bond.

Described by friends as an “exceptional lady", Ward told the court she suffers from restless legs syndrome and had been prescribed the pharmaceutical drug pramipexole for treatment.

However, she said two hours after taking her initial dose she “collapsed asleep in the hallway” of her home after putting her children to sleep and had to be carried to bed by her partner.

“I felt so sick, like I had food poisoning,” she said in a statement.

Ward also described the feeling of bugs crawling under her skin, and an uncontrollable urge to move her legs.

As a result, Ward turned to researching herbal remedies online, which listed magnesium and cannabis as alternative treatments.

After trying magnesium for a month with “no success” Ward tried cannabis after noting the NSW Police website advises “cannabis can typically be detected in saliva by an MDT test stick for up to 12 hours after use”.

Ward told the court the highway patrol officer who arrested her on Newtown Road in Bega while on her way to work just after 9.30am on June 22, had advised her the period of detection was between four and 12 hours.

“I never thought it would be readable in my system,” she said in a statement after admitting to the arresting officer she smoked two joints before bed each night to help her sleep.