Driving under the influence of drugs has become “a big problem” in the Republic of Ireland, a Garda traffic officer has said.
Sergeant Gavin Coleman warned that the “worrying trend” of people being arrested for driving after taking illegal drugs shows no sign of abating.
The penalty for drug driving is a maximum fine of €5,000, up to six months in prison, and a minimum one-year driving disqualification.
Cannabis and cocaine
Sgt Coleman told the Irish Mirror: “We’re catching an awful lot of people. It’s primarily cannabis and cocaine, cannabis is probably number one followed very quickly behind by cocaine.”
But the officer pledged: “We will continue to be out there, we will continue to mount checkpoints, we will continue to test people who we believe consumed intoxicants.”
Garda figures for 2023 show that 3,130 were arrested for drug driving.
Last month, the Citizens’ Assembly on Drug Use (CAD) urged the Irish Government to decriminalise the possession of all hard drugs for personal use.
Launching the Assembly’s final report, CAD’s chair Paul Reid said: “Our recommendation relates to all of those drugs that cause harm – cocaine, cannabis, heroin, opioids, benzos”.
The Government will now consider CAD’s “deliberations” so that “it can enhance the response to drug use, from a policy, legislative and service delivery perspective”.
However, in a letter to The Irish Times in April, 21 specialist doctors said the Government and Health Service Executive (HSE) were failing to counteract “relentless pro-cannabis messaging” in the media.
Cannabis remains the “most common substance generating demand for addiction treatment by people under 25 years old”, the experts said.
“In spite of the evidence of substantial and increasing harms, the public perception of the harms of cannabis has continued to decline. This, in turn, drives up use.”
They added: “While there is unrelenting pro-cannabis messaging on social and traditional media, there has been little attempt by Government or HSE to counter this with factual information”.