The US Department of Transportation (DOT) policies on drug testing commercial drivers and truckers for marijuana are unnecessarily costing people their jobs, archaic, and contributing to supply chain issues.
According to federal data provided by DOT, an increasing number of commercial truck drivers are being removed from their positions due to positive results when screened for marijuana.
Over 10,000 drivers tested positive for cannabis between January 1 and April 1, 2022, reports KSNW, the Kansas NBC affiliate.
The report continued stating the percentage of commercial and commercial truck drivers losing their positions increased by over 33% compared to the previous year and that DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has doubled the frequency of drug tests being administered to commercially licensed drivers.
The FMCSA provided data stating, “89,650 commercial drivers are currently on prohibited status. It has been reported that over half of those drug test failures were for marijuana.”
What Measures Can Be Taken By Commercial Truck Drivers
According to federal law, “licensed drivers are not permitted to consume cannabis under any circumstances, regardless of whether marijuana use is legal where they live.”
In a letter to US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) called on DOT to amend its marijuana-related policies, commenting the federal drug policies are unfair and outmoded.
He continued to state the policies are out of step with reality and directly contribute to the trucking shortage crisis.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) stated in his letter, “Too many of the 2.8 million Americans who hold commercial driver licenses are not working because of past cannabis tests and the difficulty they face re-qualifying for duty.”
Study Finds Reduced Number Of Heavy Truck Accidents With Legalization Of Recreational Cannabis
A recent study conducted in May 2022 by the state Universities of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Iowa, titled “Marijuana Legalization and Truck Safety: Does the Pineapple Express Damage More Pineapples?” Found US recreational cannabis legalization reduced the number of heavy truck accidents by 11% in the eight states in which the study was conducted.
The study focused on a state-level panel of heavy truck accident statistics from 2005 to 2019 and used a difference-indifferenece estimation strategy. “To test these hypotheses, we take a difference-in-difference (DID) approach, an empirical strategy that is well-established within empirical logistic research,” the study read.
Jonathan Phares, one of the researchers and assistant professors at Iowa State University, said the results of the study don’t definitively indicate legalization will reduce trucking accidents. However, there is some evidence legalization across the board doesn’t increase the number of accidents, and there are reasons why accidents could decrease due to legalization.
DOT Federal Drug Testing Guidelines For Commercial Truck Drivers
DOT has proposed changes to existing federal drug testing guidelines that would allow for the use of oral fluid testing as an alternative to urinalysis for those working in the transportation industry.
NORML’s deputy director, Pual Armentano, stated “random marijuana testing in the workplace, such as pre-employment drug screening, has never been an evidence-based policy. Rather this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs”.
Armentano continued by saying times and attitudes in many places have changed. The laws surrounding marijuana have changed, and it is now time for workplace policies, including federal workplace policies and guidelines, to adapt to the new reality of change. Federal policies and procedures must stop punishing employees for activities they engaged in during off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat.
It is essential to mention NORML has called for using performance testing technology rather than drug screening technology to determine if someone may be impaired at work.
Other Industries No Longer Testing For Marijuana
Recently, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) followed new guidance outlined in a city Law Department memo to the NYPD. The new guidance outlined by the city Law Department states there must be an end to random testing of marijuana.
The directive sent out to FDNY ensures the fire department can no longer prohibit adverse employment actions based on off-duty marijuana usage.
In response to the directive, an internal FDNY memo read, “This will change pre-employment, random, and scheduled drug testing policies for marijuana.”
A police spokesperson announced the NYPD would follow the Law Department’s ruling in light of the state’s 2021 Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act that legalized recreational usage for adults.
While it may seem there is some hesitation with the implementation of the Law Department’s ruling within the NYPD, the FDNY has no such hesitation as an internal memo read, “Further direction on the testing policy will be rolled out to members of the FDNY over the next two weeks.”
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