Washington, DC: A US Congressman is calling on the Transportation Department to amend its policies penalizing commercially licensed drivers who consume cannabis while away from the job.
In a letter authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the Congressman wrote: “To date, 48 states have enacted laws that, to varying degrees, relax their prohibitions against the use of marijuana. Nevertheless, your department’s zero-tolerance policy sweeps up drivers who were unimpaired, drivers who have not used cannabis for weeks or even months, and drivers who have used federally-legal CBD oils. Blanket disqualifications are unjust, unfair, and cause widespread economic and social damage. Thousands of driving positions are unfilled, compounding our supply chain woes. Penalizing safe drivers who comply with state cannabis laws harms both the drivers and the supply chains they support.”
Federal law mandates commercially licensed drivers to randomly undergo marijuana urinalysis testing. In recent months, federal statistics have identified the suspension of over 72,000 truck drivers as a result of failed drug tests. Over half of those failed tests were for the past use of marijuana.
In March, the Department of Transportation 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. Oral fluid tests typically detect either THC or its metabolite for a period of one to two days post-exposure – a timetable that is significantly shorter than that associated with urinalysis. The latter may detect the presence of carboxy-THC for weeks or even months following abstinence.
“Outmoded and unfair federal drug policies are out of step with reality and directly contribute to the trucking shortage crisis,” wrote Rep. Blumenauer. “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. Getting these trained, qualified, and capable drivers back on the road will unsnarl supply chains faster and more efficiently. I am very interested in the steps your department is taking to ensure these qualified drivers have opportunities to return to work, regardless of their past cannabis use.”
He concluded: “Modernizing your department’s regulation of cannabis use is critical to ensure those who want to drive can contribute to this effort. I look forward to your partnership in this effort.”
In 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services proposed in the Federal Register expanding federal drug testing guidelines to include the use of hair follicle testing. To date, however, that proposed rule change has not been finalized.
NORML has long called for the use of performance testing technology, rather than drug detection technology, to determine whether someone may be impaired while at work.
The full text of Rep. Blumenauer’s letter to the US Department of Transportation is available.