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Are Outdated Cannabis Testing Policies Contributing to the Supply Chain Crisis, Worker Shortages, and Inflation?

September 15, 2022

On May 16th, 2022, US Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) sent a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg asking him to address outdated cannabis (marijuana) testing practices to help address the supply chain crisis.

In the letter, Rep. Blumenauer cited a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in March of 2022 that found 119,000 truck drivers left the workforce in the last two and a half years and have not attempted to return. In that time over 70,000 drivers received positive mandatory drug tests for marijuana, resulting in the loss of their commercial driver’s license, commonly known as a CDL.

The Federal Department of Transportation under Secretary Buttigieg has proposed a solution to this problem in the Federal Register from February 28, 2022. The department proposed using oral fluid testing as an alternative to urinalysis (urine testing) as the industry standard to address the issue. This may be an important step as urinalysis leads to positive tests results being found up to 30 days or more following consumption, whereas oral fluid testing results in a positive test 1-2 days following consumption. Despite the proposed solution in the Federal Register, the Federal Department of Transportation has yet to adopt any change to its industry standards for cannabis testing.

The proposed switch from uranalysis to oral fluid testing would allow law enforcement to more accurately determine impairment to reduce the number of truckers who lose their license for testing positive for off-the-clock cannabis consumption, which may ultimately help improve the national supply chain and help reduce inflation. The inconclusive status of research showing both increases and decreases in cannabis-impaired driving post-legalization suggest the need for a significant investment in public health awareness campaigns on the risks of cannabis-impaired driving and additional research to inform those campaigns.

The issue of drug testing truck drivers for cannabis relates to the broader public health concern of increased traffic accidents and fatalities associated with legalized adult-use. While research has yielded mixed results with no conclusive increase or decrease in traffic accidents and fatalities, states with legalized cannabis for medical use have seen a significant reduction in traffic fatalities. Studies that only consider increases DUIs have no way of addressing confounding variables, such as increased bias, awareness of police following legalization and the +30 day latency period for positive tests post intoxication.