The legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use is spreading rapidly across the United States and neighboring countries. With 31 states legalizing medical marijuana use in the US, 10 states and D.C. permitting recreational use, Canada allowing recreational use, and Mexico conceding to medical use, there is a very real possibility that truck drivers are sharing the roads with car drivers that are under the influence of marijuana.
Federal Laws Regarding Marijuana
Even as states decriminalize the drug, there are still strict rules in place for truck drivers. The American Transport Research Institute has issued warnings as well as reminders to truck drivers that federal laws always trump state laws. Truck drivers need to be aware of the following:
- Federal law prohibits the use and transport of marijuana for commercial drivers.
- Even as drug testing laws change at the state level, they remain the same at the federal level. A positive screening for marijuana can cost truck drivers their jobs and potentially their commercial licenses.
- Marijuana, just like alcohol, has a negative effect on driving.
- Commercial drivers need to be aware of the increased likelihood of sharing the highways with individuals impaired by marijuana use.
Federal regulations also stipulate situations that warrant drug testing. These include:
- Prior to employment
- Following any accident that involved towing away a vehicle, an injury, or a fatality
- Returning to duty after a positive drug test
- When there is reasonable suspicion
- Random testing
It is important to note that drivers can retain traces of the drug in their system for an extended period of time following marijuana use. Even if the driver is not under the influence at the time of the test, any amount over the legal threshold will be a positive, failed test.
How Marijuana Affects Highway Safety
Studies have shown that marijuana intoxication impairs drivers’ ability to operate their vehicles safely and at maximum efficacy. Even so, statistics show that younger drivers are more likely to disregard this fact and drive after marijuana use. Marijuana use can affect a driver’s ability to recognize and prioritize road conditions and safety concerns, his or her ability to react to external stimuli, as well as his or her ability to remain between the lines.
Fleets and drivers alike need to be aware of the safety hazards increased marijuana use presents while on the road. Fleet managers should remind drivers of federal laws concerning marijuana use for commercial drivers as well as provide safety training on recognizing passenger vehicles exhibiting signs of driving while under the influence of marijuana. To learn more about reducing risk and improving fleet safety, contact the experts at DriverCheck.