Commercial drivers who use CBD products do so “at their own risk,” a federal agency says in a draft handbook for medical examiners responsible for issuing US Department of Transportation (DOT) certifications.
The proposed guidance, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, aims to advise medical examiners when conducting physical examinations for commercial drivers whose jobs require interstate travel.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handbook says drivers are not prohibited from using federally legal CBD products that contain up to 0.3 percent THC by dry weight, it warns examiners that the non-intoxicating cannabinoid use could still put you at risk. physical examination certifications.
Drivers required to take the test and receive DOT certification, which takes two years, “cannot be physically qualified” if they use marijuana, regardless of state law, the agency says. “even if marijuana is legal in the state.” where the driver resides for recreational, medicinal or religious use”.
But hemp-derived CBD was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, prompting FMCSA to include the new cannabis section in the handbook.
The reason the handbook warns medical examiners about the use of CBD by drivers is because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the products, which are widely available in commercial markets across the country.
“There is no federal oversight to ensure that the labels of CBD products that say they contain less than 0.3 percent by dry weight of THC are accurate,” the draft document says.
Testing positive for THC due to mislabeling is not a valid excuse, so drivers could still be considered ineligible for certification if they take the wrong product.
“Therefore, drivers using these products do so at their own risk,” states the draft manual, which is now open to public comment until September 30, he says.
“CBD products containing less than 0.3 percent by dry weight of THC are not considered a Schedule I substance; therefore, their use by a driver of a CMV is not grounds for exclusion automatic of the physical qualification of the driver he says. “However, each driver should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
“The Agency encourages [medical examiners] take a comprehensive approach to medical certification and consider any additional relevant health information or assessment that may objectively support the medical certification decision. MEs may require drivers to obtain and provide the results of a non-DOT drug test during the medical certification process.”
The proposed guidance on CBD will be included in the agency’s handbook seven years after it withdraws one version of the document that predated the legalization of hemp and therefore did not address cannabidiol products.
2021 draft version contained a more limited section on the cannabinoid and the lack of FDA regulations, and a 2020 version did not discuss CBD, but made it clear that marijuana use was off-limits regardless of state law, but these versions were not finalized.
This latest proposed version also directs examiners to an earlier DOT notice that states the department “requires testing for marijuana, not CBD,” and provides other information about cannabis-related policies and compliance regulations.
In a July newsletter from the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the agency included two sections on cannabis issues: one that again reminded employees that they are prohibited from using marijuana, and another which similarly warned that CBD products are not regulated and could contain levels of THC. that are detected in a drug test.
In a letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in May, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) argued that the DOT’s blanket cannabis testing policies needlessly cost people their jobs and contribute to supply chain problems . He urged a review and administrative reform of the guidelines.
Buttigieg, who campaigned on a pro-legalization platform during his 2020 presidential bid and repeatedly condemned the harms of prohibition, even calling for the decriminalization of possession of all drugs, has yet to take no administrative action to modernize the DOT’s marijuana policy since it was taken. the helm of the department.
While the DOT will continue to test workers for THC, the department also recently proposed a revised drug testing policy.
Current department policy mandates urine testing, but the proposed rule change would allow saliva-based testing as an alternative option. Depending on the frequency of use, THC is usually detected in saliva between one and 24 hours after use, rather than weeks for urine.
In addition, the DOT proposal says there would be a “screening test cutoff of 4 nanograms per milliliter for THC,” which would “detect marijuana use while eliminating the possibility of positive tests resulting from the passive exposure”.
A top Wells Fargo analyst said in February that there is a primary reason for rising costs and worker shortages in the transportation industry: the federal criminalization of marijuana and the resulting drug-testing mandates that they persist even as more states enact legalization.
Issues about workplace drug testing continue to be raised, especially as more states move to legalize cannabis in some form and many industries face labor shortages.
The nation’s largest union representing federal employees recently adopted a resolution supporting the legalization of marijuana and calling for an end to policies that penalize federal workers who use cannabis responsibly while off the clock in the states where it is legal.
Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee leadership recently urged the White House to “continue to review policies and guidelines regarding the hiring and firing of marijuana users in states where the private use of marijuana by of that person is not prohibited by state law” as part of a Financial Services and General Administrations (FSGG) expense report.
It specifically calls for the executive branch to apply drug testing standards “consistently and fairly.”
In June, the Senate Intelligence Committee separately adopted an amendment by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would prohibit the federal government from denying people the security clearances they need to work for intelligence agencies. intelligence just because they’ve used marijuana.
But federal agencies have generally been reluctant to loosen cannabis-related labor regulations despite state efforts to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use.
For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently proposed a change to drug testing policies for federal workers that would clarify that having a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana or any other Schedule I drug is not a valid excuse for a positive. drug test
The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said late last year that federal employers should not outright reject security clearance applicants for past use and should use discretion when it comes to those with cannabis investments in their stock portfolios.
The FBI updated its hiring policies last year so that candidates are automatically disqualified from joining the agency only if they admit to using marijuana within a year of applying. Previously, potential agency employees could not have used cannabis within the past three years.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also stressed to its workers that they are prohibited from using marijuana, or investing directly in the industry, regardless of state law or changes in “social norms” around cannabis .
And while the Biden administration has instituted a policy of granting exemptions to certain workers who admit to prior cannabis use, advocates have come under fire after reports that it fired or punished dozens of workers who were honest about his history with marijuana.
Then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki tried to downplay the fallout, with little success, and her office released a statement last year stipulating that no one had been fired for “marijuana use since years ago,” nor that anyone has been fired “for casual reasons or infrequent use during the previous 12 months.”
At the state level, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) recently signed an executive order to provide broad licensure protections to workers who use marijuana under state law. The measure also prevents state agencies from assisting in any out-of-state investigations related to legal cannabis conduct that could result in employment sanctions.
Additionally, a union representing firefighters has claimed credit for a New York City legal directive that ordered government agencies, including the New York City Fire Department (NYFD) and the New York Police Department York (NYPD), to stop drug testing workers for marijuana since the state enacted. legalization
Last year, the state Department of Labor announced separately as guidance that New York employers are no longer allowed to drug test most marijuana workers, with limited exceptions. Even before the enactment of legalization, New York City officials had established a local ban on pre-employment drug testing for cannabis.
Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed a bill last month that prohibits most workplaces from firing or otherwise punishing employees for off-duty marijuana use.
In Missouri, the County Council of St. Louis passed a bill in March to ban pre-employment and random cannabis testing for most county workers.
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