Medical examiners (MEs) are responsible for certifying drivers for the US Department of Transportation after conducting physical examinations. On August 15, the Federal Register (DOT) published draught rules for MEs.
These proposed standards, titled “Qualifications of Drivers: Medical Examiner’s Handbook and Medical Advisory Criteria Proposed Regulatory Guidance,” caution MEs about CBD intake in their patients and describe how it may still lead certain drivers to fail their exams. To drive legally in the United States, drivers can use CBD, as stated in the FMCSA manual.
The draught includes a clause titled “Use of Scheduled Drugs or Substances,” which states that drivers who use cannabis cannot be qualified despite having had a valid DOT certification for two years. Regardless of whether it’s authorized for recreational, medical, or religious purposes in the state where the driver resides, the laws state that “a driver who consumes marijuana cannot be physically qualified.”
Although CBD is legal across the country, the FDA does not control all products. It is impossible to guarantee that a product’s labels do not falsely represent the amount of CBD or the accuracy of THC in their current form.
There is no Federal supervision to ensure that labeling on CBD products that claim to contain less than 0.3% by dry weight of THC is correct because the FDA does not currently determine or certify the amounts of THC in products that include cannabidiol (CBD). Drivers who choose to utilize these products do so at their own peril.
Medical examiners (MEs) can find specific instructions for conducting the exam while keeping cannabidiol (CBD) in mind within the rules. The agency recommends that medical evaluators (MEs) use a holistic approach to medical certification. They should consider any additional health facts or evaluations that could help objectively back up the ME’s conclusion.
When undergoing a medical certificate, MEs can request that drivers obtain and submit the results of a non-DOT drug test.
In 2021, the FMCSA also released proposed regulations that barely touched on CBD. Since the FDA has not yet decided whether or not to certify the levels of THC in CBD products, consumers can’t be sure that the information on the labels is correct.
Any motorist who uses one of these products does so at his or her own peril. The 2020 proposed guidelines were silent on cannabidiol (CBD), but they did prohibit cannabis.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) sent out a message in July to warn drivers that marijuana use is illegal and to inform them about the current state of unregulated CBD products, some of which may contain more than the allowed amount of THC.
For example, “recently, some states and municipal governments have approved legislation preventing employers from testing for marijuana,” the email notes. Employers in the [Federal Transit Administration] are reminded that [state and local] legislative measures have no influence on [DOT regulated] testing programs. The Controlled Substances Act still classifies marijuana as a dangerous “Schedule I.”
The email also has a table detailing the frequency with which return-to-duty (RTD) drug tests are being administered and the percentage of FTA-covered companies doing so. According to the newsletter, the number of Return-to-Duty tests and the ratio of FTA-covered businesses that assist them has been rising. This information suggests a shift from a “zero tolerance”/termination policy in case of a DOT drug offense toward a “second chance” approach.
There were 892 RTD drug tests in 2021, with 236 of those administered by FTA-eligible businesses.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg dated May, Representative Earl Blumenauer expressed his concern that the DOT’s cannabis regulations were causing people to lose their jobs. The government should make it simpler for licensed drivers to keep their jobs, not make it harder for them to do so.
Blumenauer argued that the federal government’s drug policies were out of touch with reality and were a significant factor in the current truck driver shortage. Too many of the 2.8 million people in the United States who have commercial driver’s licenses are not working due to failed cannabis tests in the past and the difficulty in re-qualifying for duty.
Supply chains can be untangled more quickly and effectively with the return to service of these trained, qualified, and capable drivers. I’m curious about your agency’s measures to help former cannabis users find gainful employment.