Much of the recent press about marijuana has been regarding recreational use now legal in several states.  The debate regarding medical marijuana use in commercial drivers has been settled:

From the DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance Notice:

The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidelines for Federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of “medical marijuana.”

We have had several inquiries about whether the DOJ advice to Federal prosecutors regarding pursuing criminal cases will have an impact upon the Department of Transportation’s longstanding regulation about the use of marijuana by safety‐sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire‐armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.

We want to make it perfectly clear that the DOJ guidelines will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. We will not change our regulated drug testing program based upon these guidelines to Federal prosecutors.

The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40, at 40.151(e) – does not authorize “medical marijuana” under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result.

– See more at: http://www.transportation.gov/odapc/medical-marijuana-notice#sthash.r0WeDaOM.dpuf

Schedule I

These drugs have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, have a high abuse potential, and are not considered safe, even under medical supervision. These substances include many opiates, opiate derivatives, and hallucinogenic substances. Heroin and marijuana are examples of Schedule I drugs. The exception criteria of 49 CFR 41(b)(12)(ii) does not apply to any Schedule I substance.

NOTE: The driver taking medical marijuana cannot be certified.

What about the driver (candidate) who had previously been prescribed medical marijuana for mental health issues, but now states s/he is better and no longer using it?

Question from a colleague:

A driver came in and said on his FMCSA DOT form  that he was treated with medical marijuana legitimately prescribed by his mental health provider out West.  He said he last used medical marijuana several months ago and that his mental health has improved with his move to Illinois several months ago.  He has not sought followup medical care since moving to Illinois.

FMCSA states medical marijuana is not allowed.  It does not address self-admitted former medical marijuana usage.  I advised driver that he could not be certified at that time until he has further follow-up medical care and until he has evaluation by Substance Abuse Professional. 

What do you think?  Would you have taken a different pathway?   Thank you for your feedback and suggestions.

Answer:

You are correct in that the regulations address current schedule I drug use as disqualifying, not former drug use.  As the medical examiner, you have discretion to use your judgement on an individual basis if you have any reservations about a driver’s mental health or drug use and how it may affect commercial driving.  This discretion includes requiring consultation from a specialist, in this case a substance abuse professional, and may even include other mental health professionals or specific tests, like drug testing.

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