Justice Minister Ionas Nicoalou said on Tuesday that police were trained and ready for the introduction of the narcotest this month.
“It will take a few days to organise the system,” he said after the cabinet met to issue a decree, but the “training and readiness is there.”
The checks are due to begin any day after January 16.
Asked whether there was enough equipment for comprehensive controls, Nicolaou said: “The portable control system was secured after a tender process, there is a sufficient number to make adequate controls. The system has been selected after an evaluation of corresponding systems in other countries and was judged to be reliable.”
He also said the penalties to be imposed on offenders would be “dissuasive”. Offenders face a fine of €3,500 and a three-year imprisonment. They also risk losing their driving licenses for a maximum of three years and earning three to six penalty points.
The narcotest does not identify what drug a person may have used but it detects if someone has been using, he said. The type of drug someone may have used would be detected in another manner such as blood test.
“Essentially it will check whether someone has used,” said Nicolaou.
He said a police officer can check for alcohol and also ask the driver to take the narcotest at the same time.
Nicolaou added that this will not be something every driver has to do, but is a targeted measure. It is similar to a breathalyzer test, only instead of breath saliva will be used. In case of doubt, the saliva sample will be examined by the state laboratory.
Revenue from drug-related driving convictions will be paid into a special fund to tackle drug addiction.
The law, which was passed in 2016 after five years of discussion, states that as well as people driving under the influence of drugs any driver who refuses to give saliva or blood for testing will be committing an offence.
Nicolaou also announced on Tuesday that the cabinet had lifted an inequality that existed between police officers and firefighters as they move up the pay-scale ladder.
Nicolaou said there had been some inequalities in the way both police officers and firefighters on the A3 scale moved to A5 and A7. This would now be rectified to equalise the procedures, he said.
“This situation was created as a consequence of the fact that in 2002 it was decided to differentiate the way in which public officials, including members of the police, could take up the pay scales they held. An inequality was then created since those recruited before 2002 were promoted from A5 to A7 while those recruited after 2002, their rise from A5 to A7 was combined with A3,” he explained.
Under the new decision those rising from A3 to A5 would need 12 years in the position and from A5 to A7, they would need 16 years. “The decision restores equality,” he said.