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Elections prompt FMCSA marijuana policy clarification

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and the recreational use of the drug was approved by voters in California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts on Nov. 8. However, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the 2012 Controlled Substances Act, and the success of several marijuana-related ballot measures has prompted the Federal motor Carrier Administration to release a statement clarifying its position on the drug.

The agency said that employees in safety-sensitive positions will still be tested for marijuana and other illegal drugs according to Department of Transportation regulations. A similar statement was released by the agency in 2012 after voters in Colorado and Washington approved recreational marijuana ballot measures. An FMCSA spokesperson said that changes to drug policies or drug testing protocols would be led by the White House and its Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The FMCSA statement makes it clear that truck drivers will continue to be tested for marijuana use, but many experts question just how reliable these tests are. Former marijuana users may still test positive for THC days or weeks after they have ceased consuming the drug, and even THC levels detected immediately after marijuana has been smoked are not seen as a reliable indicator of impairment.

Impaired driving accidents claim thousands of lives each year in the United States, and these crashes may be particularly catastrophic when large commercial vehicles are involved. Truck and bus drivers often undergo a battery of chemical tests following a serious crash, and the results of these tests could be used by personal injury attorneys to establish negligence in semi truck accident lawsuits brought by occupants of other vehicles who have been injured. Other evidence collected by accident investigators, such as the information captured by vehicle data recorders and FMCSA violation records, could also be used.

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