Though more widely legalized, truckers cannot use marijuana

The legalization of marijuana for recreational use, medicinal use or both may be on the rise, but use of the drug remains off limits for commercial truck drivers in California and elsewhere across the country. According to the Department of Transportation, marijuana is listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and the department has indicated that it will stand by its previously established stance as long as this remains so.

On Nov. 8, voters in California joined those in Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts in legalizing the drug for recreational use. Voters in three additional states elected to legalize the drug for medicinal use with loosened restrictions on medical marijuana approved by voters in Montana. Following the vote, a spokesperson for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implied that the DOT does not have the authority to change current drug testing laws for truck drivers without any such change first being initiated within the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The issue has been addressed at least twice previously. In 2012, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington spurred an announcement by the DOT that the initiatives would not affect its drug testing policies for truckers. In November 2015, DOT issued a similar statement declining to change its established drug testing program in connection with the use of medical marijuana. As of November 2016, 28 states allow the use of medical marijuana, and approximately 80 million people live in states where the recreational use of the drug is now legal.

Measuring impairment from marijuana is far more difficult than with alcohol, because the drug affects different people in different ways. However, just as victims of an accident caused by a drunk truck driver may seek compensation from the at-fault driver through a personal injury lawsuit, those who are injured by a driver who is suspected of being impaired by marijuana might do so as well.

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