A wacky weed law is trying to make it onto the books in Ireland today, as the Transport Minister has just proposed new rules for drug testing even sober, unimpaired drivers.
The Transport Minister, Paschal Donohoe, said that cannabis users who have not taken the drug for a week or more could be prosecuted under proposed new drug-driving legislation, even if they felt “completely sober” when pulled over.
Currently, drivers only face drug charges if their driving is actually impaired. But the new proposal would grant law enforcement the ability to test a driver’s saliva after pulling them over on the side of the road.
If the officer chooses, he or she may also make the driver take a blood test.
Speaking to Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, Minister Paschal Donohoe said that the new laws will allow cops to test for different forms of illicit drugs.
The plan is to have a way to determine what drivers may have been using, even many days before getting behind the wheel.
“We have a measure that is referred to as a nitrogram (sic) per millilitre of drug, and that will vary on the kind of drug that is tested,” he said.
Cannabis advocates and opponents of the proposed new rules pointed out that traces of cannabis can stay in the body for up to a week, far longer than any kind of “impairment” that would affect a driver’s ability to motor safely.
When pressed on the issue of whether cannabis users who were “completely sober” at the time of the test could be prosecuted, the Minister said, “Yes.”
There also appeared to be some confusion over whether the minister was targeting drug offenses or traffic offenses.
Donohoe denied that prosecuting drivers who had not taken cannabis for a week was a case of the Government prosecuting a drug offense rather than a road safety offense.
“No, it’s a road safety offense,” he said. “What we are now doing is bringing into line our body of law in road law in relation to alcohol to make that completely consistent now with drug testing.”
As in most places, the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can be severe. In Ireland, the penalties for failing a drug test “will be in line with where we are now for alcohol testing”, with maximum penalties of a $7,500 fine and/or six months in prison, as well as disqualifications from driving.
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