Talk about your ‘no-brainers’. To ensure there would be ‘no room for confusion’ a representative of the Department of Transportation issued a notice recently that clarifies what already should be apparent: In no uncertain terms federal regulations prohibit the use of marijuana by commercial drivers in interstate commerce, even in states that permit use of the drug for so-called “recreational” purposes.
Now you might be asking yourself why it would be necessary for a federal organization of such repute to have to make a pronouncement of this type. The answer is simple – there have been a number of ‘inquiries’ because states are passing laws that permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes – while the federal statutes against marijuana use remain intact.
No doubt, this is problematic. But, I will say that – studies have shown the impact of marijuana to be similar to drinking and driving – so I would venture to guess that the day will NEVER come when drivers of any vehicle – let alone 80,000 pound semi-trucks – will be legally permitted to ‘puff and drive’. Like I said – it’s just a guess.
The official Department of Transportation response was as follows:
We want to make it perfectly clear that the state initiatives will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40 – does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason. Therefore, Medical Review Officers (MROs) will not verify a drug test as negative based upon learning that the employee used “recreational marijuana” when states have passed “recreational marijuana” initiatives. We also firmly reiterate that an MRO will not verify a drug test negative based upon information that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana” when states have passed “medical marijuana” initiatives. It is important to note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It remains unacceptable for any safety?sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana.
As a big rig injury attorney I have witnessed more than my fair share of the results of semi-truck accidents so it is especially distressing to think that a professional truck driver would even consider trying to determine a legal manner in which he or she would be permitted to drive an 18-wheeler while under the influence of marijuana.
Obviously medical marijuana use is impermissible for commercial truck drivers. Operating and 80,000 pound vehicle can be extremely dangerous even under the most careful circumstances. Big truck accidents have been known to wipe out whole families in a fraction of the second.
Fortunately, the Department of Transportation has been very diligent in addressing issues as they arise that relate to truck safety. That is hope that the budget cuts that are facing Washington do not adversely affect truck safety across our great nation.