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Prohibiting the use of medical marijuana high on Department of Transportation’s agenda

Written by Steve Gursten Posted January 24th, 2013

Truckers will not be given a medical explanation exception if they test positive for marijuana – prescribed or not

no medical marijuana for truckersMany states across the country have embraced medical marijuana. The United States Department of Transportation has not.

So listen up truck drivers.

Medical marijuana laws vary from state to state. Sometimes even within one state itself, the law may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The Department of Justice has taken the position that individuals who are in compliance with the applicable local and state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana should not be prosecuted.

So what does this mean for truck drivers who have marijuana legally prescribed for medical treatment?

Fortunately, the Department of Transportation has taken the position that these people may not be excepted from federal drug testing.  It has been made clear that Medical Review Officers (MROs) cannot make a medical explanation exception for a driver’s positive drug test where the driver was prescribed marijuana. The Department of Transportation Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations read:

§ 40.151 What are MROs prohibited from doing as part of the verification process?

As an MRO, you are prohibited from doing the following as part of the verification process:

(e) You must not verify a test negative based on information that a physician recommended that the employee use a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. (e.g., under a state law that purports to authorize such recommendations, such as the “medical marijuana” laws that some states have adopted.)

The Department of Transportation has a longstanding policy barring safety-sensitive operators (like truck drivers) from using marijuana. This policy still stands. The Department makes it clear that it remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the federal drug testing regulations to use marijuana; prescription or not.

This demonstrates the Department’s dedication to assuring the traveling public that our transportation system is the safest it can possibly be. The Department may not be perfect, nor is the law.  However, this is one situation where the Department certainly got it right.

 – Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by bjarnhansen

Related information:

Trucking companies adding haircuts to their drug screening process

How driving a truck is different than driving a car

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.