Despite the fast-growth of support for legal medical marijuana and the decriminalization for selling, using, and buying pot for recreational purposes in some parts of the country; truck drivers still don’t know what the deal is. It is a tricky topic. Some places allow legalization of cannabis on a state level. However, the FDA does have the ultimate say. Also, what is the protocol for CDL holders? Truck drivers want to know if it possible to hold both a valid commercial driving license and a medical marijuana card. What about transporting legal marijuana across state lines into a place where it is not legal?
Can truck drivers smoke marijuana in places where it is legal to do so?
The Department of Transportation’s Office (DOT) of Drug and Alcohol Policy remains resilient in its regulations expecting that drivers keep THC out of their systems. However, it wasn’t until 2012, that DOT even needed to address the issue of marijuana and truck drivers. After Colorado and Washington began legalizing small amounts of recreational marijuana, the question of truck drivers and pot-use started coming up frequently.
The “safety-sensitive” transportation employees who must refrain from (the even legalized medical) marijuana-use include pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire‐armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others. Basically, if truck drivers fail drug tests, Medical Review Officers will not tolerate the results even if you have a valid medical marijuana prescription.
What happens when drivers fail drug tests for marijuana use?
When a driver tests positive for marijuana in their system, regardless the circumstances, the employer must terminate that employee based off of DOT’s regulations. One issue is that even a driver who smoked legally in their home-state may fail a blood test even if they did not necessarily think they were “impaired” at the time of testing. This is because marijuana stays in your blood’s system much longer than alcohol. According to the Journal of AACC, a daily smoker’s THC levels can remain in their system up to 30 days. A 2007 study even concluded that a person can be completely sober yet fail a test due to cannabis in their blood. The law considers truck drivers with any trace of marijuana in their system as impaired.
How does cannabis-use impair driving?
A Canadian study concluded that it was twice as likely for drivers that have used cannabis within a 3 hour period to have an accident than someone who did not.
However, other findings suggest that statistically speaking, habitual marijuana-users are better drivers than non-users. “The hypocrisy of it all is that if you get caught driving under the influence of marijuana, you will be fined and perhaps thrown into jail. What’s worse is that your insurance rates will definitely increase due to the traffic violation,” says JamesShaffer, CEO of 4AutoInsuranceQuote.com.
Another study found that only 30 percent of participants that used marijuana failed field-sobriety tests despite the fact that they were under the influence.
However, all the research is purely just research; it doesn’t mean that the law or DOT have to agree. So what does that mean for truck drivers? Just don’t do it!