DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing: What About Medical Marijuana?

There are over 20 states in the U.S. that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. Those who have a legitimate medical marijuana card are protected by laws that allow them to use marijuana after receiving a doctor’s written authorization. If a person meets the requirements for receiving a medical marijuana card, they cannot be prosecuted for use and possession of a certain amount of marijuana. But what about in the workplace? Are medical marijuana card holders held accountable for a positive drug test?

What Are the Limitations on Medical Marijuana?

People who are taking medications for a disability are protected from discrimination by an employer by the Americans with Disabilities Act. An example of a prescribed medication that is normally illegal is an opiate for pain relief. If someone taking such medication were turned down by a prospective employer because of a positive drug test, the employer may be liable. However, medical marijuana still has yet to be considered one of these exempt types of drugs that require a doctor’s prescription for a disability. Marijuana, even medical, is still considered a Schedule 1 drug that can affect a person’s chance of being hired when a drug test reads positive.

How Does Medical Marijuana and Drug Testing Work?

Even if you may live in one of the states that allow medical marijuana and you have a prescription card, you can still be refused employment by a company. For example, the California Supreme Court has ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws apply to criminal prosecution, and not the workplace. This means that while you cannot be arrested or fined for using and having a certain amount of marijuana if you have a medical card, you can be denied employment at any company when a drug test comes back positive for cannabis. Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. That means that is has a high potential for abuse.

What Does the DOT Say About Medical Marijuana and Drug Testing for Employees?

The DOT has recently issued a guideline for medical marijuana use and safety-sensitive employees, which includes pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, limousine drivers, aircraft personnel, ship captains, and more. The DOT’s recent regulation titled 49 CFR Part 40.151(e) states that it does not authorize medical marijuana as a valid reason for a transportation employee’s positive drug test. When a transportation employee has to undergo any type of employee drug testing, whether that be pre-employment, post-accident, or return-to-duty, a medical review officer won’t verify a drug test as negative and acceptable based on the fact that the employee has a medical marijuana prescription written by a physician.

Why is it Unacceptable for Transportation Employees to Use Medical Marijuana?

Although the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes may be legal in your state when you receive a prescription from a doctor, it doesn’t mean that it won’t affect your abilities in any way. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can impair a person’s memory and learning ability, distort their perceptions, cause slowed thinking and problem solving, and cause a loss in coordination and motor skills. This is especially concerning for transportation employees and is the main reason why marijuana use, medical or not, is a prohibited drug.

Why is Marijuana a Concern in the Workplace?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana was the most widely used illicit drug in the U.S. in 2014. This means that chances are high that employees entering the transportation workforce have taken marijuana at some point in their lives, and maybe current users. Marijuana can affect a person’s ability to operate a vehicle and increases a person’s risk of crashing and getting into an accident which directly jeopardizes the lives of their clients.

If you have a medical marijuana card or are looking into receiving yours from a physician for a disability or other ailment, then understand the risks you are taking when it comes to your employment. You will not be arrested for use or possession, but you will not be protected if an employer wishes to conduct a drug test. For more information on DOT drug and alcohol testing, contact Consortium Pool today.