Truck Drivers Demand Change in Federal Marijuana Laws, Citing Driver Shortage Crisis

Marijuana Laws and Driver Shortage: Calls for Change Echo Among U.S. Truck Drivers

Truck drivers across the United States are voicing their concerns about laws, with an overwhelming majority calling for a change. According to a new report by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the existing cannabis testing policies for drivers are discouraging individuals from joining the transportation sector, exacerbating the ongoing driver shortage crisis. The study reveals that over 72 percent of licensed drivers support loosening cannabis laws and testing policies, while an impressive 66.5 percent believe that marijuana should be legalized at the federal level.

The report highlights a troubling statistic: more than half of all positive drug tests in the trucking are attributed to marijuana metabolite. This compound can remain detectable in a person’s system for weeks after consumption, leading to concerns that federal prohibition acts as a deterrent for drivers to continue working in the industry. Some argue that relaxing marijuana restrictions would make the transportation sector more appealing and expand the potential labor pool.

Current federal law requires commercial drivers to refrain from cannabis use and subjects them to various forms of drug screening, including pre-employment and randomized testing. However, the ATRI survey found that a significant portion of licensed drivers (65.4 percent) believe that the current marijuana testing procedures should be replaced with methods that measure active impairment rather than relying on urine-based screenings that detect only inactive metabolites.

One potential solution, recently approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT), is saliva-based testing, which offers an alternative to urine tests. This method can prevent individuals who have casually used cannabis from facing penalties for consumption weeks prior to the test. THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, can generally be detected in saliva within one to 24 hours after use, depending on frequency.

Despite the driver shortage crisis and the need for a more effective testing approach, the federal government faces two possible paths regarding marijuana. It can maintain prohibition, which would result in thousands of drivers being disqualified annually and losing many others to occupations that do not enforce marijuana testing. The current approach does allow companies to uphold zero-tolerance policies and mitigate conflicts arising from conflicting state and . Alternatively, the federal government could move toward legalization, which would likely alleviate the driver shortage pressure on the industry.

While the impact of cannabis use on driving and highway safety remains a topic of debate, the ATRI report acknowledges the mixed research findings, making rulemaking on the issue challenging. However, the report emphasizes that the transportation industry must take several actions to ensure safety and address the driver shortage crisis before any federal efforts to legalize marijuana commence.

In 2022 alone, data from the DOT revealed that 40,916 truckers tested positive for inactive THC metabolites, while as of May 1, , 12,527 drivers had tested positive for cannabis. These figures highlight the significant impact of marijuana laws on the transportation industry’s labor shortage.

Last year, the DOT proposed updated guidance cautioning commercial drivers about using CBD , stating that they do so at their own . The proposed handbook update aimed to provide guidance to medical examiners conducting physical exams for commercial drivers involved in interstate travel. The DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also published a newsletter addressing cannabis issues, reminding employees of the prohibition on marijuana use and warning about unregulated CBD products that may contain detectable levels of THC.

Recognizing the adverse effects of current cannabis testing policies on employment and supply chain issues, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) wrote a to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging a review and administrative of the DOT’s cannabis testing .

Undoubtedly, the calls for change in federal marijuana laws resonate strongly within the trucking industry, as drivers highlight the pressing need to address the driver shortage crisis and create a more effective and fair testing approach that prioritizes active impairment tests. The ultimate goal remains to ensure highway safety while expanding the labor pool and meeting the industry’s needs.

Malvin Felix
I'm Malvin, a cannabis news enthusiast who finds joy in staying updated about the latest industry trends. My passion led me to become a dedicated writer, entrepreneur, and investor in the cannabis space. Through my writing, I aim to educate and spark discussions, while my entrepreneurial ventures and strategic investments reflect my commitment to driving positive change in the industry.

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