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Stuck Between a Truck and a High Place: The Realities of Marijuana Use for Commercial Drivers

As the legalization of marijuana continues to spread throughout the United States, it's important to note that truck drivers are still subject to federal laws surrounding the drug. So, why is this the case, and how do these regulations affect those in the trucking industry?


Firstly, let's delve into the federal laws surrounding marijuana. Despite the fact that numerous states have legalized the drug for medicinal and/or recreational purposes, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. To be blunt, this means that it's illegal at the federal level, regardless of state laws.


Now, let's talk about why truck drivers are subject to these federal laws. The Department of Transportation (DOT) oversees the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the commercial trucking industry. As such, any laws or regulations regarding drug use and commercial driving fall under the purview of the DOT and FMCSA.


All CDL drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), greater than 26,000 GVWR, or transporting more than 16 passengers, including the driver, or placarded hazardous materials, on public roadways must be DOT drug and alcohol tested. This applies to any driver required to possess a CDL, including “owner-operators” and equivalently licensed drivers from foreign countries.


The FMCSA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drug and alcohol use among commercial drivers. This means that any driver who tests positive for drugs or alcohol while on duty will face serious consequences, including suspension of their commercial driver's license and potential criminal charges.


According to the DOT, "Medical Review Officers will not verify a drug test as negative based upon information that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana.” Please note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana."


So, what does this mean for truck drivers who use marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational purposes? Unfortunately, it means that they're at risk of losing their livelihood if they're caught. Even if they live in a state where marijuana is legal, they could still face federal charges if they're caught driving while under the influence.

It's also worth noting that the FMCSA has specific regulations surrounding the use of prescription drugs among commercial drivers. Drivers are required to inform their employer if they're taking any medications that could potentially affect their ability to drive safely. This includes medications that contain THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.


If a driver is prescribed such medication, they must inform their employer and provide documentation from their doctor explaining the dosage and potential side effects. Even with this documentation, the driver may be subject to additional testing and monitoring to ensure that they're not impaired while on duty.


So, what's a truck driver to do if they want to use marijuana? Unfortunately, the answer is simple: they shouldn't. The risk of losing their job and potentially facing criminal charges simply isn't worth it. It's important for drivers to remember that their priority should always be the safety of themselves and others on the road.


If you’re contacted by someone and they ask, “What’s your 20?” They’re probably referring to the radio code 10-20, meaning “location.” They’re likely not asking about any 420 code or your preference for reefer. Then again, if you haul a refrigerated trailer, there is a very high chance you’ll be contacted about the location of your reefer.


All joking aside, and without getting deep in the weeds, the regulations surrounding drug use among commercial drivers are in place for a reason. Commercial trucking is a dangerous job, and anything that could potentially impair a driver's ability to operate their vehicle safely is taken very seriously.


It's also worth noting that the FMCSA's regulations surrounding drug and alcohol use among commercial drivers are constantly evolving. As more states legalize marijuana, it's possible that the federal government will eventually change its stance on the drug. However, until that time comes, truck drivers should continue to err on the side of caution when it comes to marijuana use.


So remember, truck drivers are still subject to federal marijuana laws because of the FMCSA's zero-tolerance policy on drug and alcohol use among commercial drivers. Even if marijuana is legal in their state, drivers could still face federal charges if they're caught driving while under the influence. It's important for drivers to prioritize their safety and the safety of others on the road by abstaining from marijuana use while on duty. While it may be tempting to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, the risks simply outweigh the benefits for commercial truck drivers.


It's important for drivers to also remember that there are resources available if they're struggling with substance abuse. Many companies have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that offer confidential counseling and support for employees who are dealing with addiction or other issues. Additionally, organizations like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offer resources for those who are struggling with addiction.


In conclusion, while it may seem unfair that truck drivers are subject to federal marijuana laws, it's important to remember that the regulations are in place to keep everyone on the road safe. By prioritizing safety and following the FMCSA's regulations, truck drivers can ensure that they're doing their part to keep themselves and others safe while on the job. And who knows, maybe one day the federal government will change its stance on marijuana, and truck drivers can finally exhale and let out a collective sigh of relief. But until then, it's better to be safe than sorry.


There are two major choices when it comes to starting your professional driving career – starting your own trucking business or working as a company driver. There are multiple ways to start your trucking business with different levels of investment, risk, pay, and support. It should be clear by now that it takes a definitive plan. If you feel drawn to the idea of starting your own trucking business, and if you feel you have the inner drive to drive, Soshaul can help! Please check out our free and for-purchase resources, templates, and in-depth courses available on our website.


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Soshaul Logistics LLC and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. It is meant to serve as a guide and information only and Soshaul Logistics, LLC - Copyright 2023 - does not assume responsibility for any omissions, errors, or ambiguity contained herein. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction or operation.

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