Despite all the progress states have made on legalizing cannabis, federal law still has considerable influence over certain areas. Interstate trucking is one of them. However, if one federal lawmaker has his way, that could change. He is urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to reconsider THC drug tests for truckers.
Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer insists that truck drivers are being unfairly targeted by drug testing policies incapable of determining THC impairment. Because such a test does not exist, interstate truckers cannot risk using cannabis in any form. A single random drug test detecting any levels of THC could mean the end of a career. This is what Blumenauer wants to change.
He is urging the DOT to exercise its regulatory authority to change the rules. He believes there has to be a way to balance the safety issue with individual freedom. Whether or not the DOT agrees with him is another matter. It remains to be seen how they react to Blumenauer’s request.
Only Interstate Trucking
It should be noted that any attempt to change DOT rules would only affect interstate trucking. The DOT only maintains regulatory control over trucking that crosses the state lines. Trucking companies that operate exclusively within a single state’s boundaries are subject to the laws of that state, not federal law.
That being said, the states tend to follow federal laws in this regard. So it stands to reason that an adjustment of DOT rules to accommodate cannabis consumption under certain circumstances – like medical use – would trickle down to the state level. But that’s just speculation.
If so, it could change the landscape for cannabis home delivery. For starters, modified rules could encourage larger cannabis operators to work across state lines, thereby making home delivery more viable due to the economics of scale. But changing the rules could also have an impact on smaller operations in states where home delivery is heavily restricted.
At any rate, home delivery is something many states are grappling with. It was approved in Utah in 2021. The owners of Salt Lake City’s Beehive Farmacy say that delivery is absolutely essential in a state as rural as theirs. Without it, patients in the most rural areas do not have access to their medicines. They either go without or cross state borders to get cannabis elsewhere.
The Other Side of the Coin
The other side of the coin in all of this are genuine concerns about DUI. A big reason for random drug testing is the fact that no one wants an impaired driver behind the wheel of a big rig. We made that clear years ago. Before mandatory drug testing was a thing, consumers and advocacy groups were up in arms, demanding that Washington step in to protect America’s drivers. Now we have turned the corner.
Growing numbers of consumers are amenable to legalized marijuana. But given that marijuana is a psychoactive substance, steps have to be taken to make sure truck drivers are not using it while working. The only way to do that right now is through drug testing. If there is a better way, fine. But if not, there doesn’t seem to be any choice but to leave the law intact.
The DOT will ultimately have the final say. They could move to change the rules so the truck drivers could consume cannabis under certain circumstances. That would likely mean forcing employers to test impairment before sending drivers out. But even that opens a messy can of worms. The nature of the trucking industry is such that there really is no easy way to approach this.