Science currently cannot determine whether drivers are too impaired by cannabis to get behind the wheel. That’s because THC, the chemical ingredient in cannabis that causes the high, remains detectable in urine for as long as a month. Despite this, the federal government continues to sideline truck drivers for marijuana use, even in the middle of a supply chain crisis.
Thanks to federal law, which lists marijuana as an illegal substance, marijuana testing of truck drivers continues nationwide, despite the test’s flaws. It’s led a congressman to ask that the federal government change the rules.
Citing numbers from the federal Department of Transportation, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, noted recently that the DOT has disqualified tens of thousands of truck drivers from working in the past two years because they tested positive for THC on a drug test.
“These disqualifications deny people the right to earn a living, reduce the workforce when drivers are desperately needed, and penalize people of color and patients who legally use medical cannabis,” Blumenauer wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “This crisis must be treated with urgency.”
A Call to Change Drug Test Policies
In his letter, Blumenauer wrote that the DOT should “rapidly reform” policies that govern marijuana testing of truck drivers, allowing many drivers to return to service. He also called for a focus on developing an accurate test for marijuana impairment.
He argued that current policy has a widespread impact, leading some people to avoid the profession knowing the drug testing requirements currently in place. But he put most of his focus on how the policy unfairly penalizes current drivers for using cannabis, which is legal in many states, and for the impact it has on the economy.
“While no one wants impaired drivers on the road, existing tests can’t detect impairment – only past use,” he wrote. “The Department of Transportation’s current policies towards these drivers contributes to supply chain backlogs and delays in critical deliveries across the American economy.”
Other Complaints About Marijuana Testing for Truck Drivers
Blumenauer is not alone in his criticism of current federal policy. Others have noted the odd strategy of taking truck drivers off the road for failing a flawed test in the middle of a national supply chain emergency that’s led to a shortage of many items, including baby formula.
It also has led to difficult situations for drivers. For example, a medical marijuana patient who uses prescribed cannabis to help with sleep or chronic pain can lose their job even though what they are doing is perfectly legal and they only use cannabis during their off hours.
And it’s not just a medical marijuana issue. Politico reported on one Alabama trucking company that complained to the DOT, “Drivers who are off duty or even on vacation for a week can’t enjoy marijuana in a legal state.”
The federal government’s “zero tolerance policy” also has impacted those who use hemp derivatives such as CBD oil that has no psychoactive properties (it doesn’t get you high), Politico reported.
Blumenauer told Buttigieg that the time for change is now. “As the United States continues to confront the supply chain crisis, your department should lead the effort to research more reliable cannabis test options and develop new tools that avoid sweeping up innocent drivers while also keeping our roads safe from those who are truly impaired,” he wrote.