Report on Trucking, Cannabis Finds Most Drivers Support Testing Reform

The impacts of cannabis legalization on the trucking industry, namely the recent decline in drivers due to strict rules on drug use on drug testing, are already well-documented. However, a new report from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) dives in even further.

The report titled, “Impacts of Marijuana Legalization on the Trucking Industry” takes a closer look at the latest demographic trends in cannabis legalization, reviews research and data surrounding highway safety and cannabis use, summarizes workforce and hiring implications for the trucking industry and analyzes publicly available CDL driver drug test data. 

It also takes a closer look at truck driver and carrier opinions on cannabis — finding that the majority of both support a change in the current drug testing policies — along with an analysis of cannabis policies imposed upon drivers, detailed drug testing data, a closer look at research on cannabis, road safety, and much more.

Driver Shortage and Cannabis Legalization

The ATRI released its first research publication on the impact of cannabis legalization on the trucking industry in 2019. Citing the many additional jurisdictions that have since legalized or decriminalized cannabis, ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee voted last year to conduct research and revisit the topic.

To operate large trucks, drivers are required to possess a commercial driver’s license, and in the trucking industry in particular, current federal law requires those with commercial licenses to abstain from using cannabis or risk termination. According to the report and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, more than half of all positive trucking industry drug tests are for cannabis metabolite. 

Should a driver test positive, they are removed from the industry until they complete a series of remedial steps. Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse data indicates that more than 100,000 drivers tested positive and were removed from duty between 2020 and 2022.

“With a national driver shortage that fluctuated between 65,000 and 80,000 in recent years, these positive tests impact the industry,” the report says.

The report notes that federal prohibition “has been highlighted as a potential disincentive for drivers to stay in the industry, and it has even been argued that loosening the restrictions on marijuana use would make the industry more attractive and widen the potential labor pool.”

Valuable Insights on Cannabis Opinions in the Trucking Industry

The 61-page report is overflowing with information on cannabis and trucking, including figures on the increase of truckers residing in recreational cannabis states between 2019 and 2023 (18.5% versus 41.1% respectively), recent cannabis road safety research, federal requirements throughout the industry, a look at the last decade of drug testing data, and more. 

Among the highlights are survey results surrounding driver and carrier opinions on cannabis. A majority of carriers (56.3%) said they would be willing to hire a driver with a past positive cannabis test, though more than half (54.8%) of that group said a specific period of time would need to pass first. The most common increment of time reported was five years (37%).

The majority of carriers (60.1%) also reported that there had been a noticeable increase in positive pre-employment tests or walk-outs over the past five years, and of those who noticed an increase, nearly half (45.5%) indicated that no particular age group was more likely to test positive. Otherwise, the most frequently selected age group was 26-35 years old (27.6%).

Most carriers (62%) said that changes in federal drug testing policy are needed and that a cannabis impairment test should replace a cannabis use test (65.4%). While carriers largely recognized that the current model is flawed, most (40.9%) were still “extremely concerned” about impaired driving as a result of cannabis legalization.

Most drivers (55.4%) said that they believed highway safety had not been impacted by legalized cannabis use, and 65% said that a cannabis impairment test should replace a cannabis use test.

The driver survey also included a text box, where drivers could provide any final comments surrounding recreational cannabis. Most comments fell into two categories: those supporting a loosening of cannabis testing and laws (72.4%) and comments supporting the status quo (27.6%).

The Path Forward

The report says that there are two pathways the federal government can take in the future with cannabis, and both present challenges for the trucking industry.

Should it maintain federal prohibition, “the trucking industry will continue to have thousands of drivers annually placed in prohibited status and will lose many others to occupations that do not test for marijuana use,” the report said. ATRI says that companies can continue to enforce zero-tolerance policies and keeping the status quo could help resolve disputes from conflicting state and federal policies.

The report also states, “Any shift toward federal legalization would likely ease pressure on the industry’s driver shortage.”

“The central goal of industry drug testing efforts is highway safety. The current approach supports safety efforts, but also results in inefficiencies when drivers that do not present a safety issue are removed from the industry,” it says, adding that the trucking industry must take several actions to ensure safety and a lack of impairment before federal efforts to legalize cannabis come to fruition.

The post Report on Trucking, Cannabis Finds Most Drivers Support Testing Reform appeared first on High Times.

Washington Bill Would Ban Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Cannabis

Washington state is poised to become the next state to ban most pre-employment drug tests for cannabis. As detection of THC is a poor way to measure impairment, given how long cannabis stays in the system, more states are dropping drug tests for cannabis.

A new bill could change the way drug tests screen for cannabis in the state. Senate Bill 5123, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Des Moines), will ban pre-employment cannabis tests.

“This is a victory against discrimination toward people who use cannabis,” said Keiser, who serves as chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. “For people using a legal substance—many of them for medical reasons—locking them out of jobs based on a pre-employment test is just plain unfair, and we are putting a stop to it.”

Lawmakers in the state are beginning to see how drug testing for cannabis is detrimental, when otherwise qualified job applicants are denied jobs.

“It makes no sense to limit our state’s workforce by deterring qualified job applicants, especially at a time when the number of unfilled positions is at historic highs,” Keiser continued. “This legislation opens doors for people who might otherwise not even put in an application—and that’s a win for workers and for employers.”

The bill would apply to pre-employment drugs testing only, meaning that employers could still maintain drug-free workplace policies for employees, such as random drug testing. 

It would not prohibit using drug tests to screen for other drugs, and it would not prohibit using cannabis tests after accidents or because of suspicion of impairment.

Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) disagreed with the proposal and said the issue should be addressed by tweaking drug tests instead of introducing legislation to ban drug testing for cannabis.

“I acknowledge the problem,” Braun said. “I’m not sure this bill is the solution.”

An earlier version of the bill provided exemptions, such as applicants in the airline industry overs safety concerns, as well as federally regulated positions that typically require drug testing.

An amendment from Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) added more exemptions to the bill.

The bill wouldn’t apply to safety-sensitive jobs, of which impairment while working would risk death, which was amended instead of listing specific industries. Employers would need to tell applicants if they test positive for cannabis in pre-employment drug tests.

Are Drug Tests an Accurate Way of Determining Impairment in the Workplace?

The Spokesman-Review reports that cannabis metabolites can be detected long after impairment, lasting up to 30 days or more. But cognitive impairment can last from three to 10 hours, according to a 2021 study by the University of Sydney. Those researchers found that drug tests for cannabis are likely an inaccurate way of determining impairment.

Researchers wrote that “finding an objective measure of recent cannabis use that correlates with impairment has proven to be an elusive goal.” Some states have enacted laws that set legal limits on the amount of THC a driver may have in their blood, similar to the 0.08% blood alcohol concentration limit in effect nationwide.

“These findings provide further evidence that single measurements of specific delta-9-THC blood concentrations do not correlate with impairment, and that the use of per se legal limits for delta-9-THC is not scientifically justifiable at the present time,” reads the study published by the journal Scientific Reports.

The bill is making its way through the legislative process and will head to a House committee for a public hearing not yet scheduled. Then it will return to the Senate for a concurrence vote before going to the governor’s desk to be signed.

The post Washington Bill Would Ban Pre-Employment Drug Testing for Cannabis appeared first on High Times.

Cops May Soon Be Able To Scan Your Eyeballs To See if You’re Driving Stoned

A Montana-based company called Gaize has developed a device which can scan the user’s eye and utilize crazy futuristic robot intelligence to detect THC impairment.

According to the company’s founder, Ken Fichtler, American law enforcement agencies have already agreed to use the technology, though he could not specify which ones. 

“I’ll preface all of this by saying I am pro cannabis. I’m pro cannabis legalization. I’m doing this because I see a distinct need at the federal level to have some product to detect impairment so we can keep roads safe,” Fichtler said.

The device is akin to a virtual reality headset of sorts that a police officer would hypothetically place on the head of a driver suspected of reefer smoking. It shrouds the suspect in darkness for a few moments before shining a bright light to electronically scan the movement of the suspect’s eyeballs.

“The eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes offer a remarkably clear picture into the mental state of a person. They’re full of involuntary micro-movements and reflex responses that transmit information about someone’s impairment or sobriety,” the Gaize website states.

According to Fichtler, the scan cannot be used as evidence in court, much like a traditional breathalyzer, but police officers can use it in the field if they suspect someone is high so as to take their own bias or out of the equation completely. Gaize cannot yet quantify impairment like a traditional breathalyzer does, but it can essentially indicate if the person is intoxicated enough for their eye to respond to stimulus differently than it normally would.

“You can’t simply measure THC and say, ‘Yeah, okay, this guy’s high because he’s got five nanograms of THC in his body,’ right? It just doesn’t work that way,” Fichtler said. “What we’re doing is actually directly measuring how impairment manifests in the body, which I think is a much more rational, measured and fair path forward.”

Fichtler said the test is based on several different studies which have spanned the last 40 years, including a 350-participant clinical trial Gaize conducted themselves. A cursory search of “how cannabis affects eye movement” does indeed show several peer-reviewed studies on the matter dating back to at least 1979. As with most scientific studies there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation or error but try as I might I could not find much to dispute the science behind this technology. It turns out eyeballs are just dirty little snitches that will sell stoners out at every turn.

“There’s a lot of changes that happen and a lot of them happen at a scale that a human couldn’t necessarily see unless they were looking really close or even using a magnifying glass or something. Our product is sensitive enough that we can detect these really minute changes,” Fichtler said.

Fichtler did make a point of saying Gaize will not be selling the technology arbitrarily to be used for nefarious purposes but if you work a dangerous job or like to get high on your morning commute, you may find yourself staring into the bright light of a Gaize headset soon. 

Fichtler was not able to provide High Times with an estimated date that law enforcement agencies might begin to roll out the use of these headsets but for what it’s worth he seemed to speak with the voice of a man who had signed one or more non-disclosure agreements, rather than a man waiting for orders to start coming in.

“It’s being evaluated by some really high profile departments,” Fichtler said. “They haven’t all adopted it yet, but some have. My hope is that within a couple of years, maybe this is sort of standard practice.”

The post Cops May Soon Be Able To Scan Your Eyeballs To See if You’re Driving Stoned appeared first on High Times.

Study Finds THC Detected in Blood or Breath Does Not Indicate Impairment

A new study published this month adds further evidence that levels of THC detected in the blood or breath of cannabis users is not a reliable indicator of impairment. Researchers also found that levels of THC in blood and breath did not provide reliable evidence of how recently a test subject had used cannabis.

In their introduction to the study, the researchers noted that “finding an objective measure of recent cannabis use that correlates with impairment has proven to be an elusive goal.” Some states have enacted laws that set per se legal limits on the amount of THC a driver may have in their blood, similar to the 0.08% blood alcohol concentration limit in effect nationwide.

Critics of per se limits on THC concentrations in blood or breath have argued that such limits have little bearing on the level of impairment or intoxication, which can vary widely from person to person despite similar levels of THC concentration.

“These findings provide further evidence that single measurements of specific delta-9-THC blood concentrations do not correlate with impairment, and that the use of per se legal limits for delta-9-THC is not scientifically justifiable at the present time,” wrote the authors of the study published by the journal Scientific Reports.

To conduct the study, the researchers recruited a group of test subjects, most of whom were daily cannabis users. The scientists then determined the THC levels in their blood and breath prior to and after inhaling cannabis.

Before inhaling cannabis, most subjects had residual THC levels of 5ng/ml or higher, which exceeds the per se legal limit in several states. The authors noted that THC at such levels was detected despite “the absence of any impairment.” After the test subjects inhaled the cannabis, the researchers noted an inverse relationship between THC blood levels and impairment of performance.

“Our findings are consistent with others who have shown that delta-9-THC can be detected in breath up to several days since last use,” they wrote. “Because the leading technologies for breath-based testing for recent cannabis use rely solely on the detection of delta-9-THC, this could potentially result in false positive test outcomes due to the presence of delta-9-THC in breath outside of the impairment window.”

New Study Backed by Previous Research

The results are consistent with the findings of a study published late last year in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Review. In that study, researchers affiliated with the University of Sydney analyzed all the available studies on driving performance and THC concentrations in blood and saliva.

“Higher blood THC concentrations were only weakly associated with increased impairment in occasional cannabis users while no significant relationship was detected in regular cannabis users,” wrote lead author Dr. Danielle McCartney of the Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics. “This suggests that blood and oral fluid THC concentrations are relatively poor indicators of cannabis-THC-induced impairment.”

To conduct the study, the researchers reviewed data from 28 publications that studied the consumption of inhaled or ingested cannabis. They then analyzed the association between THC concentration and driving performance, using measures of driving-related skills such as reaction time and divided attention.

The researchers documented “weak” associations between THC levels and impairment among infrequent cannabis users. But they observed no significant association between blood or saliva THC levels and impairment among regular pot users, defined as those who used cannabis weekly or more often.

“Of course, this does not suggest there is no relationship between THC intoxication and driving impairment,” McCartney said. “It is showing us that using THC concentration in blood and saliva are inconsistent markers for such intoxication.”

The authors noted that the findings in the study call into question the validity of widespread random mobile testing for THC in saliva in Australia and the reliance on THC levels by law enforcement in the United States.

“Our results indicate that unimpaired individuals could mistakenly be identified as cannabis-intoxicated when THC limits are imposed by the law,” said McCartney. “Likewise, drivers who are impaired immediately following cannabis use may not register as such.”

Professor Iain McGregor, the academic director of the Lambert Initiative, a long-term research program studying the medical potential of cannabis, said that “THC concentrations in the body clearly have a very complex relationship with intoxication. The strong and direct relationship between blood-alcohol concentrations and impaired driving encourages people to think that such relationships apply to all drugs, but this is certainly not the case with cannabis.”

“A cannabis-inexperienced person can ingest a large oral dose of THC and be completely unfit to drive yet register extremely low blood and oral fluid THC concentrations,” McGregor added. “On the other hand, an experienced cannabis user might smoke a joint, show very high THC concentrations, but show little if any impairment. We clearly need more reliable ways of identifying cannabis-impairment on the roads and the workplace.”

The post Study Finds THC Detected in Blood or Breath Does Not Indicate Impairment appeared first on High Times.

Positive Drug Tests for Pot Hit All-Time High

More Americans are failing drug tests because of pot than ever before, and the solutions to the problem range from blaming legalization to dropping drug testing for pot altogether.

Quest Diagnostics drug-tested over 11 million people during 2021, via urine, hair, and oral fluid drug tests, analyzed about 9 million of the tests, and found some startling trends. According to a Quest Diagnostics newsroom press release quietly released last month, more people are failing drug tests due to pot use than ever before.

The rate of positive drug test results among America’s workforce overall hit a 20-year peak as well. It’s the highest rate since 2001, up over 30% in the combined U.S. workforce from an all-time low in 2010-2012, according to the analysis.

For an interactive map of the Drug Testing Index (DTI) with positivity rates and trends, click here.

“Positivity rates for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce, based on more than 6 million urine tests, continued an upward climb, increasing 8.3% (3.6% in 2020 versus 3.9% in 2021), the highest positivity rate ever reported in the DTI,” the survey summarizes. “Over five years, positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 50% (2.6% in 2017 versus 3.9% in 2021).”

The Wall Street Journal pointed out the number of states that have legalized cannabis since 2017, when the rates of positive drug tests were lower. Fresh Toast, on the other hand, questioned whether or not it’s time for policymakers to reflect what is going on in the general workforce amid the report of record-high numbers.

Quest Diagnostics leaders acknowledged a disconnect between changes in society and the drug testing results they found. Drug tests not only impact job applicants and employees—but the retention rates employers grapple with.

“Employers are wrestling with significant recruitment and retention challenges as well as with maintaining safe and engaging work environments that foster positive mental and physical wellbeing,” said Keith Ward, General Manager and Vice President, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. “Our Drug Testing Index data raises important questions about what it means to be an employer committed to employee health and safety. Eager to attract talent, employers may be tempted to lower their standards. In the process, they raise the specter of more drug-related impairment and worksite accidents that put other employees and the general public in harms’ way.”

Drug Testing for Cannabis Is Not Reliable Indicator of Impairment

A study associated with the National Institute of Justice found that THC levels are “unreliable indicators” of impairment. National Institute of Justice-supported researchers from RTI International studied how specific cannabis doses correlate with THC levels, and their findings were surprising.

“Laws regarding driving under the influence of marijuana vary from state to state, with a growing trend toward ‘per se’ laws that use a level of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, one of the psychoactive substances in marijuana) in the blood, urine, or oral fluid as a determinant of intoxication,” researchers wrote. “However, there is little evidence correlating a specific THC level with impaired driving, making marijuana per se laws controversial and difficult to prosecute.”

This aligns with what researchers from the Lambert Initiative, based at the University of Sydney in Australia, told High Times last year. Researchers at the Lambert Initiative focus some studies on cannabis impairment itself and the drug tests that are supposed to determine impairment.

“Unlike alcohol, you simply cannot infer whether some is affected by THC, or how affected they are, based simply on the amount of THC they have in their system,” Dr. Thomas R. Arkell told High Times last October.

He continued, saying it’s “ridiculous” to base laws and workplace rules on drug tests when it comes to cannabinoids.

Jobs That Don’t Drug Test

Do employers really need to drug test potential employees? Former President Ronald Reagan’s Drug Free Workplace Act was implemented in 1988. It started with 21% employers requiring drug tests in 1987, and that number shot to 81% by 1996.

The profound influence of state after state legalizing cannabis for medical or recreational purposes, combined with labor, is driving employers to reconsider pre-employment drug tests for cannabis among job applicants.

The most notable company to do so would probably be Amazon. On June 1, 2021, the company released a blog post based on its goal to become both “Earth’s Best Employer” and “Earth’s Safest Place to Work.” In that announcement, it confirmed that it would be adjusting its drug testing policy to avoid testing for cannabis.

Forbes profiled a search engine Phynally, founded by Damian Jorden in April last year. Phynally can save time for job seekers if they choose to consume cannabis in their own time.

The post Positive Drug Tests for Pot Hit All-Time High appeared first on High Times.