A new report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) showed that about 41,000 truck drivers tested positive for cannabis in 2022, a 32% increase over 2021.
“Professional drivers are not allowed to use marijuana, even for medical reasons,” Eric Miller, a reporter who covers the DOT for Transport Topics, told WTOP. Drivers who test positive for marijuana use during a drug test should meet with their doctor and develop a treatment plan that includes regular testing.
However, “just 46,000 have completed the process and are eligible to drive again as of Jan. 4. The other 91,000 of the more than 166,000 drivers who failed at least one drug test have not enrolled in the return-to-work process,” per the report.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently recommended to the DOT to “add a warning label to cannabis products regarding the potential for driving impairment, make enhancements to state drug-impaired driving laws, and standardize technology testing to detect drug use,” Miller said.
NTSB board member Tom Chapman commented: “We’ve long known about the devastating impact of alcohol-impaired driving, but this [NTSB] report shows that impairment from other drugs, especially cannabis, is a growing concern that needs to be addressed.”
A ‘Trucking Shortage Crisis’
“The Transportation Department’s reliance on this outdated technology and upon these discriminatory policies is out of step with reality and is directly contributing to the trucking shortage crisis,” said NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano pointed out the federal law that mandates truck drivers under marijuana urinalysis testing.
“Suspicionless marijuana testing in the workplace is not now, nor has it ever been, an evidence-based policy. Rather, this discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’ But times have changed; attitudes have changed, and in many places, marijuana laws have changed. It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat,” Armentano added.
Meanwhile, the American Trucking Association (ATA) said the industry’s driver shortage “eased slightly but could still balloon to a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2031.”
“We’re regulated by the federal government. We cannot have anyone impaired using marijuana or any other narcotic operating this equipment,” ATA president Chris Spear said at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “So this channel conflict between the federal rules and the states allowing—this ambiguity is creating a litigious environment, and we’re caught right in the middle of it,” reported Marijuana Moment.
In related news, a study conducted at state Universities of Tennessee, Arkansas and Iowa showed that U.S. recreational cannabis legalization reduced the number of heavy truck accidents by 11% in the eight states studied.
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