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What is the law for Drug Driving in Ireland?

Updated: Dec 9, 2023


Drug driving. What is the law for drug driving in Ireland



MANDATORY INTOXICANT CHECKPOINTS allow Gardai to stop motorists randomly and conduct tests for substances. These checkpoints not only test for the presence of alcohol but also drugs.

The important point to remember is that in most cases these are routine stops i.e. there is usually no suggestion that the motorist has consumed drugs.


Sometimes they may have a suspicion that, from your physical appearance or from a smell of cannabis emanating from the car, you’ve consumed drugs.


In most cases these are routine stops
i.e. there is no suggestion that the
motorist has consumed drugs.


Once pulled over the motorist may be asked to provide a specimen of their saliva (oral fluid test). They’re handed a cassette (Securetec Drugwipe 6s), similar to a cotton bud, to rub around the inside of their mouth.


It functions like a COVID antigen test and the device is easier to transport. It is also quicker than the previous device the Gardai used, the Drager DT5000, which was withdrawn from use in November 2022.

It can detect up to 8 substances: cannabis, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, methadone, fentanyl.


If the device registers the presence of any of these substances you will be arrested.


Drug Limits.


Once a person has been arrested, they will be brought to a Garda station and required to allow a doctor or nurse take a specimen of blood from them.

Once the sample is taken it is sent to the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS).


The Bureau test the specimen for alcohol and then later for drugs.



This shows the extreme danger
of consuming drugs
casually at the weekend.


The testing for alcohol is very quick (usually days) while the testing for drugs takes about 8 weeks on average.

This is because the presence of drugs in blood takes longer to detect than alcohol.

The blood sample is injected with a preservative and placed in a refrigerated area where it will remain stable until the testing process has been complete.








The drug limits in a person’s blood are listed below. If you exceed these limits, you will receive a summons to appear in court at a future date.


Tetrahydrocannabinol(Cannabis): 1ng/ml

11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol: 5ng/ml

6-Acetylmorphine (Heroin): 50ng/ml

Cocaine: 10ng/ml

Benzoylecgonine (Cocaine): 50ng/ml

SOME DRUGS ARE “long lasting” i.e. they can remain in your system for days and even weeks after having been consumed.

If a person smokes cannabis today, they could still be over the legal limit for up to 3 weeks later. If they are tested at the roadside and cannabis is detected they will be arrested, despite the fact that the Garda may have no suspicion of intoxication whatsoever.


This shows the extreme danger of consuming drugs casually at the weekend.

For instance, cannabis can remain in your blood for up to 14 days, cocaine for upwards of 4 days, methamphetamines 2-3 days and benzodiazepines for 2-3 days.

In many cases this can be perceived as being unfair by the motorist, as it means that even having consumed a drug 2-3 days earlier, if it is detected at a checkpoint, it’s presence may ultimately lead to a disqualification from driving.

In effect, the drugs that are tested have such low thresholds that they just about eliminate the possibility of their presence in your system due to passive inhalation i.e. somebody consuming the drug next to you.

The penalty for Drug Driving is the same as for Drink Driving: one year disqualification form driving.


The drugs that are tested
have such low thresholds that they
just about eliminate the possibility
of their presence due
to passive inhalation


Medical Exemption.


Sometimes after having stopped you at the roadside Gardai will ask you whether you hold a medical exemption. What they’re referring to here is whether you hold a medical certificate from your doctor. The medical certificate specifically relates to medicinal cannabis.


The Misuse of Drugs Act 2019 allowed for some cannabis products to be used for medicinal purposes only. Such a certificate can only be granted by a medical consultant and only relates to certain to specific medical conditions. In truth the numbers of people in possession of medical certificates is extremely small.






Is there any way out of it?


Will the Judge take sympathy on you that you had consumed this drug days earlier and were not intoxicated on the day?

No. They cannot.


If the drug is detected in your blood the law mandates that if the motorist is convicted the Judge must disqualify them.


The judge has no discretion here. They don't have a choice.


If you're convicted you will be disqualificed.


Logically that means that you need to avoid a disqualification, so that means getting legal advice from your lawyer who can examine the evidence.



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