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U.S. Department of Transportation confirms marijuana testing requirements unchanged despite reclassification proposal

DOT clarifies marijuana testing requirements should remain intact regardless of reclassification

July 2, 2024
Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed his agency believes the U.S. Department of Justice’s proposal to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug will not impact the transportation industry’s ability to screen for marijuana.

During a recent House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure hearing, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg confirmed his agency believes the U.S. Department of Justice’s proposal to reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug will not impact the transportation industry’s ability to screen for marijuana.

Secretary Buttigieg directed his comments to U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), who cited two letters that the American Trucking Associations has sent to federal agencies seeking clarity on this major policy shift that could negatively affect highway safety.

“We are grateful to Congressman Crawford for elevating this serious issue, and we appreciate Secretary Buttigieg’s focus on providing the transportation industry with the clarity it needs to continue screening for marijuana use among safety-sensitive transportation workers,” said American Trucking Associations President & CEO Chris Spear. “If the trucking industry’s ability to conduct drug testing for marijuana use were to be restricted, a heightened risk of impaired drivers would threaten our nation’s roadways. DOT and ATA share the goals of achieving zero highway fatalities and ensuring the commercial driving workforce is qualified to safely operate, which is why we are committed to partnering with DOT to mitigate harmful impacts caused by the potential reclassification of marijuana.”

Marijuana and alcohol remain the most detected drugs in impaired driving crashes, resulting in serious or fatal injuries. Between 2000 and 2018, crash deaths involving marijuana more than doubled, from 9% to 21.5%. Immediately following Canada’s 2018 legalization of marijuana, the country’s emergency rooms saw a 94% increase in the rate of marijuana-involved traffic injuries.

See also: Fontana: Trucking's marijuana dilemma

In response to Crawford’s line of questioning today, Secretary Buttigieg stated that USDOT anticipates it will maintain the authority to conduct testing of marijuana use by commercial motor vehicle drivers and other safety-sensitive transportation workers. 

“The American Trucking Associations has transmitted two letters to your agency highlighting [reclassification] concerns,” said Crawford. “Mr. Secretary, I think it's safe to assume that the number of all impaired drivers on our roadways would increase. Can you speak to what your Department is doing to ensure that transportation workers in safety-reliant positions can continue to be tested for marijuana use if this proposal goes forward and how your department plans to address transportation safety in light of DOJ's ruling?”

“Our understanding of the rescheduling of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III is that it would not alter DOT's marijuana testing requirements with respect to the regulated community,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “For private individuals who are performing safety-sensitive functions, subject to drug testing, marijuana is identified by name, not by reference to one of those classes. So even if it was in its classification, we do not believe that that would have a direct impact on that authority.”

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