Medical marijuana is scientifically proven to aid people with certain physical and mental illnesses. And, like many medicines, whether derived from plants or chemically created, marijuana has side effects. Is prescribed marijuana legal when driving with a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)? Can CDL drivers use marijuana on vacations and days off? What happens if a driver tests positive after an accident, even though they weren’t inebriated at the time?
Medical Benefits Of Marijuana
There are legitimate reasons why doctors prescribe marijuana.
- Cancer patients suffering through chemotherapy may use marijuana to ease pain and lessen nausea so they can eat.
- Properties in cannabis have shown promise in fighting cancer cell growth in cervical cancer patients, and doctors continue to research its effects on other cancer types.
- People with epilepsy experience more extended periods between seizures while on cannabis.
- Its anti-inflammatory properties help with autoimmune gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, and more.
- It helps addicts transition off harder drugs and alcohol addictions by lessening the anxiety and irritability that cause relapses.
- Medical marijuana can mitigate symptoms for people with mental conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and extreme anxiety.
- Individuals with nerve damage may have less pain.
- Marijuana also lowers blood pressure.
With its many benefits and fewer side effects compared to other medications, it’s little wonder people seek help and get doctor-prescribed marijuana cards.
Marijuana Side Effects
According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse, when people smoke or ingest marijuana, the THC interacts with receptors in the brain, causing the following side effects:
- Increased sensory perception
- Altered time awareness
- Mood changes
- Sluggish movement
- Slower reaction times
- Impaired ability to process multiple pieces of information and make decisions
- Memory problems
- Delusions (high doses)
- Hallucinations (high doses)
- Psychosis (high doses)
Medical Marijuana And The Law
A study of 7 trauma hospitals conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission revealed 25% of car accident fatalities involved a driver that tested positive for cannabis.
Many states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Some have also legalized it for recreational purposes. However, state acceptance doesn’t equate to federal legalization. Due to marijuana’s ability to alter your mental state, the Department Of Transportation (DOT) does not allow commercial drivers, whether they are carrying cargo or passengers, to have a CDL license if they fail their drug tests.
The DOT is a federal agency with a no-tolerance policy. State law may exempt a medical marijuana card carrier from discrimination in the workplace, but all commercial driving companies answer to the DOT. Failed drug tests can cost you your CDL.
How Long Does Marijuana Stay In Your System?
Drug tests can detect marijuana use in the last 30 days. The tests can’t tell if an individual used yesterday or a week ago, making it hard for a driver to prove they weren’t under the influence at the time of an accident. A driver using marijuana is a liability to their employer because a positive test makes it hard to prove the driver wasn’t at fault in an accident. Both the driver and the company may be held responsible.
How Often Do CDL Drivers Get Tested?
It is estimated that 50% of drivers get tested each year. Commercial driving companies can test employees when hired, after any incident, such as an accident, if their behavior provides cause, or as part of random drug testing by their employer. All CDL drivers are required to be part of a randomized testing pool from which names are drawn quarterly. Refusing to take a drug test is an automatic fail. They will also test you again before reinstating your license if your driving privileges are suspended.
Do They Keep A Record Of Failed Tests?
Yes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a searchable database called the Clearing House, available to government agencies and employers, showing your last five years of drug test history.
Even if your current test is clean, you may have trouble getting a job if you have a history of failed drug tests.
If you want to get tested, search the internet with the phrases “DOT testing center near me” or “DOT physicals near me” to find the closest certified clinic or doctor’s office.
How Do They Test For Drugs?
Marijuana metabolites appear in a urine sample. While the test is specific in what it looks for, there is a chance for a false positive, according to the National Library Of Medicine. Known culprits causing the false positive include
- Ethacrynic acid
- Some baby soaps
Discuss all of your medicines and supplements with your DOT Medical Examiner.
The bottom line is you can’t have a marijuana medical card and a CDL. Deciding not to use marijuana can be a difficult decision, especially if you have a challenging physical or mental condition that would benefit from cannabis use. On the other hand, the evidence is clear. Cannabis alters a driver’s mental state, making it unsafe to be behind the wheel.