Marijuana Mania has gone wild over the past few years. Some states have legalized it for personal use and in other states, it is still a criminal activity to use marijuana. But rest assured, no matter where you reside in the USA, marijuana is not legal under federal laws. The federal government recognizes marijuana as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it has no medical uses and has the potential to cause more harm than good. The trucking industry which is strongly monitored by the Department of Transportation (DOT) is against the use of marijuana by its truckers.
At the moment, close to 70% of adult Americans support the legalization of marijuana and there are about 55 million active users, but the trucking industry has remained firm about its decision; truck drivers are not allowed to use marijuana for any reason while driving a truck.
Drug Testing In The Trucking Industry
The 1991 Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act mandates that the DOT enforce drug and alcohol testing in the transportation industry. This means that employees can be tested for drugs in the urine, prior to employment, randomly tested, if there is reasonable suspicion of illicit drug use, post-accident or return to active duty; this applies to pilots, train drivers and commercial bus drivers, also.
What If Marijuana Is Legal In My State Or With My Employer?
Even though some businesses and industries have permitted the use of marijuana by their workers, this is not so with the entire trucking industry. All truckers should be aware that irrespective of where they reside, driving under the influence of marijuana has strong legal repercussions. What this means is that even if one has a valid medical prescription for marijuana, if the driver is stopped by law enforcement and fails the drug test, he/she faces legal penalties similar to alcohol.
While many states have made use of marijuana legal, as far as trucking is concerned, it is not recommended that one drive while using the substance. The trucking industry is facing a backlash from its drivers and it has encouraged the DOT to undertake research to determine the safety of marijuana in the trucking industry. The trucking industry insists that following the strict anti-marijuana policies is also preventing a whole generation of new truck drivers from entering the profession.
So What Happens if a Truck Driver Has a Positive Test for Marijuana While Driving?
When a truck driver is stopped by law enforcement and found to have marijuana in his urine or blood, there are legal repercussions. The penalties can be monetary as well as suspension of license. The penalty is determined by the level of marijuana in the blood and any concomitant traffic violation.
Many drivers with very low levels of marijuana in the blood have been fined between $500-$1,000 for a first offense, and for repeat offenders the penalties are more severe. In addition, based on DOT policies and rules, the employer will most likely terminate the driver, even if he or she has a valid medical prescription. The reason is that the medical benefits of marijuana are still being debated; and just because some states have legalized its use, this does not mean it is safe.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay in the Body?
Depending on the manner and frequency of usage, modern-day URINE tests can detect marijuana in blood for 30 days after the initial use. Hair analysis can detect marijuana for up to 90 days after first use. However, the routine blood test for marijuana will no longer be positive after 3-6 hours. Because marijuana can remain in the body for a long time, truckers who are off duty should be aware that it can be detected for up to 30 days. Legally truckers with any amount of marijuana in their system are considered impaired. So even if a trucker has a medical reason to use marijuana, he or she should be weary of the legal implications and the risk of losing the job.
What About Marijuana Transport Across State Lines?
It is also important for truckers to know that if they have any amount of marijuana on board the truck and if they drive across state lines and are stopped, this is illegal, even if the state has made marijuana use legal. To federal officials crossing state lines with marijuana is a criminal offense, just the same as carrying marijuana while flying.
In terms of the commercial transport of Marijuana, it is still illegal. However, last year the USDA finalized it’s regulations on the transport of hemp for industrial purposes opens the doors to interstate transport.
How Does Marijuana Impair A Truck Driver?
“Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.”
Several studies have shown that marijuana can impair the performance of a truck driver including loss of concentration, ability to make decisions, and becoming forgetful. Unlike alcohol, the risk of failing a sobriety test under the influence of marijuana is low. If an officer suspects that the driver has used marijuana, a urine test is done.
Marijuana In The Trucking Industry, My Final Point
If you are a trucker, the best advice is to stay away from marijuana or you will lose your job. Even if you are on a holiday, refrain from marijuana usage because it does stay in the body for a long time and a random urine test will identify it. Despite all the published reports, the medical benefits of marijuana are questionable and this alone should be a reason not to use; it’s not worth risking a good career in trucking.