Cannabis consumers who are aspiring to receive a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive trucks and other commercial vehicles should seriously consider the pros and cons of their career outlook. Data shows that commercial drivers are consuming cannabis more than any other drug, even if it can ruin their career.
Commercial drivers test positive for cannabis more often these days than any other drug, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
As you can imagine—federal restrictions on drugs for CDL holders are quite strict. With this in mind, drivers can face heavy punishments if they fail a drug test.
The most recent data shows that 98 percent of all positive drug screens in the first half of 2020 were for drugs and not alcohol. Only 892 CDL holders failed drug tests due to alcohol. That’s probably because alcohol detection tests can only measure alcohol in the blood for up to six hours, on the breath for 12-24 hours or in urine for 12-24 hours, while cannabis is detectable for weeks, or months in some cases.
The DOT mandates drug tests use urine samples only for typical pre-employment tests—so if you’re drunk one day, you can pass it the next. Cannabis on the other hand, lingers in fatty tissues and can trigger a positive result for much longer.
Over half, or 52 percent of the 40,433 tests came up positive for cannabis, which is currently legal in one form or another in most states.
But the FMCSA doesn’t care about state laws. “The bottom line for CDL holders is you can’t use marijuana, even though you have states that allow people to use marijuana on a recreational basis,” said Larry Minor, the associate administrator for policy at the FMCSA.
If a CDL holder tests positive for cannabis on the first drug screen, they usually don’t lose their license, but repeat offenses are another story, or when an injury is involved. But failing a drug test for cannabis automatically ignites a long return-to-work process that is still considered to be a “career nightmare.” There are stories of drivers who still have their CDL but cannot find work over a brownie and a stain on their record.
Around half of the failed drug tests took place during the pre-employment drug screen. An additional 13,340 failed drug tests were randoms, and only about 1,700 failed drug screens were found following an accident.
Even CBD Is an Issue for Commercial Drivers
The FMCSA issued a Clearinghouse Update on May 27, reminding commercial motor vehicle drivers—who are regulated by the FMCSA—that they should exert caution when considering whether to consume even hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products.
JD Supra reports on the critical updates that CDL drivers should know:
- The U.S. DOT requires testing for marijuana and not CBD.
- CBD product labeling is often misleading because the products could contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) than what’s stated on the product label.
- The U.S. DOT’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation, 49 CFR Part 40, does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.
- CBD use is not a legitimate medical explanation for a laboratory-confirmed cannabis positive result. Therefore, Medical Review Officers will verify a drug test confirmed at the appropriate cutoffs as positive, even if an employee claims they only used a CBD product.
- Since the use of CBD products could lead to a positive drug test result, U.S. DOT-regulated CDL drivers should exercise caution when considering whether to use CBD products.
Knowledge is power, especially when weighing the risks of consuming cannabis when a career is at stake.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.