DOT: Marijuana use always a trucking violation, even where legal

With a number of states legalizing marijuana for either medical or recreational use, the question has come up among commercial drivers whether legal use of marijuana is still a trucking violation. Particularly since the state of Colorado is considering a blood-THC level that will be considered legal for driving, the federal Department of Transportation recently issued a policy notice on the subject.

"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," that policy notice reads. "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."

The issue here is that trucking regulations are federal, and carry the force of federal law to supersede state laws on the same subject. So, as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, using it will continue to represent a CDL-threatening violation of trucking regulations.

This is true even for truckers who may be prescribed medical marijuana by a physician. Federal law does not recognize the legitimacy of medical marijuana, so it remains illegal for commercial operators. Period.

If you do test positive for any amount of THC, you will immediately be prohibited from performing any safety-sensitive function and won't be able to drive commercially until you've gone through an interview, education program and a return-to-duty drug test. Once you're back on the road, you'll have to submit to at least six follow-up drug tests in your first year back. Fail one, and the whole process starts over.

You may have heard that medical review officers are authorized to mark drug tests negative when the drug detected has been prescribed by a doctor. The Justice Department, however, has specifically said that MROs cannot do that for medical marijuana.

So the rule is pretty simple. If you're a commercial driver, it's not legal for you to have any detectible amount of THC in your blood when you're driving, either on the job or on your own time.

Source: Land Line, "Trucking regs trump state laws on marijuana use," David Tanner, April 4, 2013

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