In May 2012 the government introduced primary legislation to Parliament that would create a new offence of driving with a specified controlled drug in the body above the specified limit for that drug. The Crime and Courts Act 2013 sets out the framework for the new offence.
Regulations now need to be made to specify the drugs to be included in the legislation and the limits to be specified. The Department for Transport has published a consultation seeking views on the government’s proposed limit for amphetamine to be included in these regulations. The proposals follow an earlier consultation conducted over the summer on the proposed 17 drugs and limits for 16 of them. DfT did not propose a limit for amphetamine as they sought views in that consultation on what a suitable limit might be. DfT has analysed the responses and concluded that the limit should be 50µg/L.
In the earlier consultation DfT proposed a zero tolerance approach to deal with those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs as this sends the strongest possible message that you cannot take drugs and drive.
DfT also put forward its approach for dealing with drivers who use drugs which have recognised and widespread medical uses but which can also affect a patient’s ability to drive and are sometimes misused. It is clear that the vast majority of people who use these drugs are doing so responsibly and safely and that is why DfT's approach does not unduly penalise drivers who have taken properly prescribed medicines. The limits proposed follow the recommendations of the expert panel, which in the vast majority of cases, will avoid the new offence catching out drivers who have taken properly prescribed or supplied drugs in accordance with the directions of a healthcare professional or the drug manufacturer. This will avoid inconveniencing the public and taking up police time.
DfT considered that amphetamine needed to be treated differently because it had significant medical use but was also commonly used illicitly. The full explanation of the analysis for the rationale and consideration of the responses for the proposed amphetamine limit is set out in the consultation document.
The department believes the proposed limit of 50µg/L is above the therapeutic range for most who are taking amphetamine legitimately but would also be effective in catching those who are abusing amphetamine.
The consultation started on 19 December 2013 and closes on 30 January 2014.
DfT will then publish its consideration of both consultations in 2014 soon after the close of this consultation and finalise the regulations in readiness for Parliament who will need to approve them before they become law.