Tough love from the DOT

The federal Department of Transportation today affirmed that the recent approved marijuana legalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington State will not change their policies regarding marijuana. Marijuana use, whether for medical reasons or recreational enjoyment, is still technically under federal law and that is what the DOT will abide by. From the DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance:

We have had several inquiries about whether these state initiatives will have an impact upon the Department of Transportation’s longstanding regulation about the use of marijuana by safety‐sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire‐armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.

We want to make it perfectly clear that the state initiatives will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40 – does not authorize the use of Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason.

Therefore, Medical Review Officers (MROs) will not verify a drug test as negative based upon learning that the employee used “recreational marijuana” when states have passed “recreational marijuana” initiatives.

We also firmly reiterate that an MRO will not verify a drug test negative based upon information that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana” when states have passed “medical marijuana” initiatives.

If you work at a transportation job that requires federally mandated drug testing, the fact that your state has legalized marijuana doesn’t mean you are allowed to test positive for it. The fact that medical marijuana or recreational marijuana may be legal under state law doesn’t matter as far as the DOT is concerned. The current rules remain unchanged.

Before partaking in legal marijuana in either of these two states, it would be wise to make sure it will not interfere with your employment.

I think it is interesting that a month after the election the only guidance we have received so far from the federal government regarding state legalization efforts has been from agencies only tangentially involved. At this point the Department of Justice has still provide no indication for how it will deal with the new state laws.

Photo by cuellar under Creative Commons license.