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There is a serious truck driver shortage in the US in 2022 fueled by inflation and the pandemic. And for truck drivers who enjoy the benefits of marijuana, there is another speed bump: draconian Federal marijuana laws.
Commercial truck drivers are required to take randomized drug tests. But many who are marijuana users fail those tests because cannabis shows up in drug tests days or weeks after use.
This has kept truck drivers off the road and off cannabis, including those who live in legal states and use marijuana for recreational or medical purposes during their off-hours.
As one Alabama trucking company wrote to the Department of Transportation, according to Politico: “Drivers who are off duty or even on vacation for a week can’t enjoy marijuana in a legal state.”
And many in the trucking industry, and at least one congressman, believe this contributes to the supply chain issues plaguing the entire country.
Thousands of truckers sidelined
There is currently a lack of truckers in the U.S., and President Joe Biden has vowed to get more truckers on the road. In a “trucking action plan” Biden spoke about at the White House in April 2022, the President told an assembly of people from the transportation industry that “all of you here today are people our economy should be built around because you all are the people who literally make it run…I have nothing against investment bankers. They could all retire and nothing much would change. You all quit, everything comes to a halt.”
But while the administration has taken steps to help the trucking industry, they’re policies seem to be contributing to the problem. Since the early 1970s, the federal government has listed cannabis as a Schedule I illegal drug on par with cocaine and heroin. That’s caused issues for employees in all industries, including truckers, who use cannabis for medical purposes or recreationally during their off-hours.
The problem arises from the fact that no accurate test for impairment by marijuana currently exists. Because THC stays so long in the bloodstream, a positive test might cost a trucker his job even though it’s been days since he used cannabis.
A congressman calls for change
Short of Congress taking cannabis off the Schedule I list, an action that appears unlikely any time soon, some type of amendment to the law or policy change is needed. Congressional Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon, called for that change in a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Blumenauer wrote that the Department of Transportation (DOT) should “rapidly reform” marijuana testing policies for truck drivers, a move he said should allow many drivers to return to work. He blamed the current situation for contributing to the supply chain crisis and called for the development of an accurate test for marijuana impairment.
“While no one wants impaired drivers on the road, existing tests can’t detect impairment – only past use,” he wrote. “Onerous requirements for returning to duty after a positive test also mean most of these drivers never return to work.”
DOT officials are currently in the early stages of a process in which they take comments on the issue as a prelude to possibly making a change. Meanwhile, Politico reported that only a quarter of the 119,113 drivers with at least one drug violation since January 2020 completed the complicated process, including having an employer sponsor, to return to the road. That, according to many, is making the supply chain crisis even worse.