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Can CDL Drivers Have a Medical Marijuana Card?

can cdl drivers have a medical marijuana card
  1. Did you know that there are over 3.5 million Americans who are employed as truck drivers? Truck driving is one of the largest employed occupations in the United States, and the driving (pun intended) force supplies everything from food and retail goods to fuel, medical, and industrial supplies.

    Let’s dive into commonly asked questions about commercial drivers and medical marijuana.

    What is a Commercial Driver’s License?


    A Commercial Driver’s Licence (CDL) is a specialized type of license that is required to operate commercial vehicles anywhere in the United States. Specifically, any type of vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or greater. A CDL license is also required for vehicles transporting more than sixteen (16) passengers, including the driver, or vehicles containing hazardous materials in gross quantities.

    There are different classes and endorsements for specialized vehicles that require a CDL certification:

    Class A CDL Vehicles

    • Tractor-trailers.
    • Truck and trailer combinations with GVWR of 26,001 pounds or greater if the towed vehicle or freight is over 10,000 pounds.

    Class B CDL Vehicles

    • Single non-towing vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more.
    • Buses that carry 16 or more passengers, including the driver.
    • Vehicles towing a trailer that is less than 10,000 pounds GVWR.

    Specialized Vehicle Endorsement

    • Tanker Endorsement (N) is required for drivers of vehicles designed to carry bulk liquids.
    • Double/Triple Trailer Endorsement (T) is required for drivers who are operating multiple trailers.
    • Hazardous Materials Endorsement (H) is required for transporting hazardous chemicals and other types of cargo, such as solvents, fuel, oil, paint, and other explosive, flammable, or chemicals that can cause environmental harm.

    Passenger Endorsement

    • Needed for any driver who operates a vehicle that transports sixteen (16) or more passengers, including the driver.

    To receive a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), the driver must complete specialized training and additional training for specific endorsements. Most programs are 4-8 weeks in duration and require on-the-road as well as textbook study and testing.

    Why Would A CDL Driver Want a Medical Cannabis Card?

    Imagine driving thousands of miles every week in a sedentary position. The life of a truck is not easy, and CDL drivers may have a statistically higher rate of injury and chronic diseases associated with working long hours.

    Some of the most common health problems and symptoms experienced by truck drivers include:

    • Obesity.
    • Cardiovascular problems.
    • Insomnia and sleep disorders.
    • Chronic back and joint pain.
    • Diabetes.
    • Hearing loss.
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
    • Vision strain or loss.

    In addition to physical health symptoms, truckers or professional commercial drivers may also experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Long-haul drivers, for example, spend a great deal of time on the road and away from home, and that can cause feelings of stress and isolation.

    Commercial Driver’s Cannot Use Medical Cannabis.

    truck driver

    With the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) still controlling marijuana laws at the federal level, there can seem to be a blurred line between federal law and state regulations. Things can be especially confusing for truck drivers whose job it is to transport legal marijuana products across state lines or who hold a marijuana card while also possessing a commercial driver’s license.

    The legalization of medical marijuana in most states across America has meant the trucking industry has seen greater opportunities for transporting marijuana products, but it has also created challenges around drug testing drivers.

    This is because federally, marijuana “is still considered to be a Schedule I controlled substance, which means that it is illegal to consume, sell, or possess in the U.S.” Additionally, the DOT strictly prohibits marijuana use by employees considered “safety-sensitive,” even if it is legal in the state where they live. For example, a truck driver from Florida who uses marijuana legally in Colorado (a recreational state) could lose their job.

    “The DOT says holding an MMJ card is not a valid medical explanation if a transportation employee tests positive for any prohibited drug.” This has been the case since 1986 when the federal government implemented the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

    The United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sets the policy for drug testing, which must be followed by truck drivers and trucking companies alike. Employers are required by law in most states to conduct randomized drug testing.

    There are also safety weeks where all CDL vehicles can be stopped and checked. Drivers can be asked to randomly submit to drug or alcohol testing during a ‘safety blitz’ spot check.

    Can Commercial Driver’s Use Medical Cannabis Off Duty?

    Having a medical cannabis card is not against the law; testing positive for marijuana use is if you are employed as a licensed commercial motor vehicle driver. The drug and alcohol policy for CDL professionals is clear; if you test positive, you lose your license and must enter into a recovery program or drug cessation for a period of time before your CDL driver’s license can be reinstated.

    While some people commit to not using cannabis during working hours, cannabis use can remain detectable in the body for thirty days or longer, depending on the potency and frequency of use. Using medical cannabis on vacation, for example, you may test positive in a random drug or alcohol test, resulting in immediate suspension of your CDL endorsement(s).

    Failing a drug test more than once as a CDL professional can result in permanent loss of your license. After that happens, it is a lifetime ban on having a license to drive commercial motor vehicles. Drug and alcohol testing is randomized; it can happen at work or on the highway and is conducted during safety blitz events.

    Don’t risk losing your CDL and ability to work within the commercial trucking or passenger vehicle industry. Talk to your doctor about other methods of coping with recurrent symptoms.


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