Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed Police Scotland’s preparations for the introduction of new drug driving laws on 21 October.

Police will carry out testing using ‘mouth swabs for any motorist they suspect of drug driving or who has been involved in an accident or stopped for a traffic offence. This will make it easier to hold drug drivers to account as there will no longer be a requirement to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner.

There will be a zero tolerance approach to the eight drugs most associated with illegal use, including cannabis, heroin and cocaine. Drugs associated with medical use will have limits based on impairment and road safety.

Mr Yousaf said:

Driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs is simply not acceptable. The consequences of causing a collision while under the influence can be devastating.
“I am grateful to Police Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority, and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for their hard work to prepare for the new laws coming into force.
“Alongside our stringent drink driving limits, these new curbs will ensure Scotland’s law enforcement agencies have the most robust powers in the UK to tackle impaired and unsafe driving in order to keep people safe.”
Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle, head of road policing for Police Scotland, said:  “With our partners, we are committed to reducing road casualties and deplore the devastating consequences of drug driving on victims, their families and communities.
“This new legislation gives the police powers to detect, at the roadside, those selfish motorists who risk the lives of others and themselves by driving after taking illegal substances. 
“Over and above our priorities for road safety, there will be wider benefits for improved public safety as these powers and new equipment will help us disrupt illegal drugs supply by dealers, and organised crime groups by deterring and detecting drug drivers.” 

Background 

The drugs which have a near zero limit (zero tolerance limit) are benzoylecgonine; cocaine; delta–9–tetrahydrocannabinol (cannabis and cannabinol); ketamine; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); methylamphetamine; methylenedioxymethaphetamine (MDMA – ecstasy) and 6-monoacetylmorphine (6-MAM – heroin and diamorphine). The limits are not zero to allow for minor accidental exposure to such drugs.

The medicinal drugs which will have limits based on scientific evidence are clonazepam; diazepam; flunitrazepam; lorazepam; methadone; morphine; oxazepam; and temazepam.

A separate approach has been taken to amphetamine, balancing its legitimate use for medical purposes against its abuse.

Any person taking medication in line with the prescription they have can claim the medical defence to the new offence. However, they can still be prosecuted under the existing impairment offence if they are demonstrating impairment. If the prescription indicates that they should not drive while taking the medication then they are unable to claim the medical defence.

Existing law makes it an offence to be in charge of a motor vehicle while unfit to drive through drink or drugs, with the penalties – reserved to Westminster – being a minimum 12-month driving ban, up to six months in prison and a fine of up to £5,000. The new offence of driving while above specified drug limits will operate alongside the current offence and carry with it the same maximum penalties.

The specific details of the new limits can be found at:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi/2019/83/contents/made

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