You’d think Americans would be lining up at the door to transport the goods to which, we, the people, have become accustomed. Why then are employers having trouble hiring drivers? The industry has several obstacles to overcome. One of them specifically has to do with legal pot.

Apparently, employers are having trouble finding drivers that can pass the drug test.

Marijuana is more accepted in our nation now as a harmless drug. States that put legalization on the ballot consistently see a positive result. Young people and old, alike, are voting to drop marijuana’s illegal status.

This poses problems for all employers. However, those in the safety sensitive workforce are responsible for employees that are on our nation’s highways. That makes them accountable for your and my safety as well.

Think about that a second.

It tends to shine a new light on things, doesn’t it?

Sure, marijuana is being legalized across the nation. Those that voted for it revel in the victory. States scramble to figure out exactly what that looks like in a functioning society.

Eventually, the road will straighten out.

In the meantime, there are lots of bumps to contend with. Advocates are pushing to remove marijuana testing from drug tests completely. Employees who test positive for marijuana are outraged that it remains on the test if it’s legal. Some states seem to work against employers even further. They plan to implement legislation banning marijuana from drug tests.

The pot and the kettle

Legalizing marijuana doesn’t change the fact that it impairs the user.

It is true that marijuana is traceable in the system long after it’s use. Trust us, it comes up a lot. However, until there is a way to test for current impairment, employers must take a better safe than sorry stance on the matter.

Marijuana impairment causes lower production levels in the workplace. In addition, with both cognitive and motor skills affected, the user poses a safety risk to others.

Remember, we’re talking the trucking industry here.

The driver’s inability to stay focused could put you in the wrong place at the wrong time. A slower than normal reaction time risks a serious accident that may have been avoided.

There are other scenarios, but you get the point.

Crystal clear or shattered

The number of potential employees turned away due to a positive marijuana drug test is increasing. However, we’ve mentioned the fact that driving and impairment (even in states that have legalized pot) do not work well together. This is true under any circumstances.

Legalizing marijuana should not equal drugged driving. As a matter of fact, eighteen states currently have zero tolerance or per se laws on the books.

  • Zero tolerance laws make it illegal to drive with any amount of drugs in your body.
  • Per se laws enforce legal limits for specific drugs measured by a drug test.

Currently, the DOT regulates all safety sensitive employers at the federal level. There are strict regulations in place regarding employee drug testing. Employers have been free to continue drug testing for marijuana.

Soon, that may not be the case.

Rather than taking a proactive stance in federal regulation, the Federal Government is considering making this issue a free-for-all of sorts. If the STATES Act passes, marijuana’s Schedule 1 rating will be removed. If this happens, individual states receive the right to govern and regulate marijuana legalization as they see fit.

No u-turn

The trucking industry is already suffering. Removing the DOT’s regulation of marijuana at the federal level will likely mean that drivers will be even harder to find.

Of course, the idea of removing marijuana from the DEA’s (Drug Enforcement Administration) classification schedule raises concern for all employers. However, the trucking industry is expressing grave concern. Already facing a shortage of drivers due to low take home pay after increasingly expensive out-of-pocket expenses and poor working conditions, the marijuana issue is far from the icing on the cake.

It’s more like holding the cake over the fire waiting to see how badly it gets burned.

Regulating employers in the safety sensitive workforce at the state level could get chaotic. What happens when you cross state lines? Things could get dicey to say the least.

As if that wasn’t enough

Since we’re mentioning potential legislation at the federal level, it seems the trucking industry is getting hit with a double whammy.

In August 2018, three senators introduced a bill that would allow young drivers the right of passage to drive large semi trucks and other commercial vehicles across state lines. Not that we are saying young drives are more likely to use marijuana, but if inexperienced and impaired by marijuana use, the risk of accidents increases.

And, then, there’s the CBD issue to think about as well. Contrary to other myths, the one about CBD oil not containing THC certainly isn’t true. Employees who use it for medical purposes test positive for marijuana as well.

What then?

“You don’t want someone driving a semi or a private vehicle who meets some sort of intoxication standard, but to totally disqualify someone from employment because in a state that has legalized it, they used it on a weekend when they weren’t working, is very problematic.” Bill DeFazio, House Transportation Chairman.

Well said, Mr. Chairman.

There needs to be a way to test for current impairment.

To date, there is nothing on the market that detects whether or not someone is impaired by marijuana use in the moment. Several companies are working on a solution, however. Before long, a marijuana breathalyzer could hit the market.

We expect them to sell like hotcakes!

Until then, employers need to keep abreast of changing laws in their state pertaining to marijuana legalization, both in the safety sensitive and general workforce. Tweak your policies to note any changes in state and local government.

And, speaking of government, let your thoughts be known. Even if you don’t employ those that are out on our country’s highways every single day, you’re traveling on them. Your family is on them as well.

Make your voice heard because enforcing safety on the roadways is imperative to all of us.