What To Do With Pot-Smoking Chauffeurs

Jim Luff
Posted on January 25, 2017

Image: Flickr.com image by Chuck Grimmett C.C. license here
Image: Flickr.com image by Chuck Grimmett C.C. license here
With California voters overwhelmingly approving recreational use of marijuana, it seems more Californians are stepping out of the dark shadows to say they enjoy a toke now and then. California, Nevada, and Massachusetts all passed measures in November 2016 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, making it the same as having a glass of wine at home.

Herein lies the problem for the ground transportation industry. First, the last three states to legalize marijuana also happen to be some of the most active states for the use of chauffeured transportation. Washington, D.C. also had relaxed laws on the use of marijuana nearly 20 years ago, and this past November invited folks from other states come to D.C. to make their purchases.

Oddly enough, the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) is also located in Washington, D.C. and has steadfastly held to the Federal Drug and Alcohol Policy commonly referred to as Part 40 of DOT Regulations. The policy was adopted in 1991 as a means of keeping the traveling public safe on the road and keeping the highways of America drug-free.

So, now what? There are 27 states that have legalized marijuana in some form. You have everyone from politicians to school principals revealing they smoke weed. You have attorneys, medical doctors, and literally hundreds of other professional occupations blazing away. You will undoubtedly have a chauffeur in the near future fail a random drug test and plead they have the legal right to smoke marijuana and even if they failed the test, they haven't done anything wrong. WRONG!

The DOT has not relaxed its Drug & Alcohol Policy, and it doesn't seem that will happen in the future. In fact, for those visiting the majestic Yosemite National Forest in California, you can still be arrested for a federal violation for even having marijuana in your pocket. Your case will be tried in a federal court and the fine is generally about $200.

The bottom line is transportation companies fall under DOT regulation whether federal or state, but states follow federal law when it comes to safety. This includes enforcing Federal DOT Drug & Alcohol Policy. That means random drug testing requires employers to terminate a driver who fails a drug test as well as report to future employers through the Release of Information form. This form is required to be in each driver's “qualification file.”

So, even if it might be legal now for people to puff away on marijuana in 27 states, it is not okay for chauffeurs to smoke it. It is still against federal law and nothing has changed that might compromise the safety of our public passengers.

Related Topics: chauffeur behavior, driver behavior, driver safety, drug testing, drugs, federal regulations, Jim Luff, law enforcement, operations, passenger safety, Safety, Shop Talk blog

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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