How Legal Marijuana is Affecting Commercial Driver’s Licenses

Cannabis plants

by Outgrow Your Garage

Legal marijuana is sweeping the nation. As of 2022, 27 states have decriminalized marijuana in small amounts, and 18 states have legalized it for recreational use in adults aged 21 and over.

The states’ legalization of weed continues to see positive results. It generates billions of dollars in tax revenue each year that benefits much needed programs for things like public education and healthcare, and it has opened up loads of employment opportunities.  

For those individuals that operate CMV’s (Commercial Motor Vehicles) though, marijuana poses a problem for getting and holding a job. Since marijuana is illegal on a federal level, CMV operators are prohibited from using the drug due to federal drug testing regulations. A person is not physically qualified to drive a CMV if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance.

With state laws changing regularly, organizations are getting confused about the use of marijuana for CMV drivers. Since THC can remain in your system for up to 30 days after use, you can still get arrested for low levels of THC detected in your system. For CMV drivers who are required to pass drug tests on a regular basis, marijuana use outside of work can lead to losing your Commercial Driver’s License, and in the worst cases, fines or jail time.

Hiring for these positions is becoming increasingly more difficult in states with legal marijuana. Earlier this year, our founder, Jessi Burg, gave a presentation on hiring for the National Association for Landscape Providers. She spoke with a Colorado landscaping company about how problematic it is to find employees since weed became legalized.

They are having a hard time finding anyone who can pass a drug test, and as a result, they have an even greater labor shortage, which means that the streets are less safe in the winter after a storm.

If companies that provide necessities such as public transportation, snow plowing services, and long haul trucking of goods are unable to hire, this affects the general public and the supply chain as a whole. Requiring regular drug tests for CMV drivers, even for those states with legal weed, is creating an unnecessary burden on small businesses everywhere.

Other types of hemp products add to the confusion. Many people use products containing CBD, which is different from marijuana. THC, also known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes you feel high.

CBD is unlike THC in the sense that it does not get you high, and is instead widely used in salves, lotions, tinctures, and other forms to treat things like muscle relief, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia, just to name a few.

Even those products listed as being strictly CBD/having no active THC can still result in a positive drug test, as they often contain large enough quantities of the compound to trigger a positive result.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC than DOT allows in a controlled substance, and that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for an employee who tests positive for marijuana.

Despite these regulations, marijuana is still the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests amongst CMV drivers. If drivers choose to partake in legal marijuana when not behind the wheel, they are still unable to get hired and can face consequences for failing a drug test.

Safety is extremely important for driving large vehicles, and drug tests are one component of that. Logistically though, including marijuana in those drug tests doesn’t really make sense anymore.

In the same way that workers can go home after a long day of work and enjoy a legal beer (or unlimited beers, for that matter), shouldn’t they be afforded the same right to smoke a legal, after work joint? And, if your state and local laws agree that weed is legal and can be ingested safely (not while operating a vehicle), should CMV operators still be required to pass drug tests for marijuana? 

A main argument for many seems to be that marijuana should be federally legalized. If individual states are thriving under legal weed sales, then there’s no reason why it should still be illegal on a federal level.

Many view marijuana use as a victimless crime, so as long as drivers aren’t operating CMV’s under the influence, it shouldn’t matter if they legally consume marijuana in their free time. We’d love to hear your opinions on the subject, so tell us what you think in the comments below!

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