Groundbreaking Shift in Drug Testing: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
Updated: Jul 29
Revolution in Federal Drug Testing: Making Strides Toward Fairness and Accuracy
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has just announced a groundbreaking shift in its drug testing policy. This change holds significance for America's history with cannabis, particularly impacting federally regulated transit workers such as truck drivers and pilots. The new saliva tests, which become effective from June 1, 2023.
Key takeaways from this development include:
The End of an Era: Urine-Based Cannabis Testing?
Introduction of oral saliva drug testing: After completing the rulemaking process, the DOT announced that oral saliva drug testing would be introduced as an alternative to urine-based tests. This is viewed as a big win for employees and advocates who have long been critical of urine tests for their potential to yield false positives due to THC metabolites showing up weeks or months after cannabis consumption.
For instance, let's say a truck driver used marijuana recreationally two weeks ago. With a urine test, he might still test positive, risking his job even though he wasn't impaired at work.
How Long Can THC Be Detected with the Saliva Tests?
Implications for casual cannabis users: Unlike urine tests, saliva tests can detect THC only one to 24 hours after use, which would prevent casual cannabis users from being penalized for off-duty consumption. DOT has established a screening test cutoff of 4 nanograms per milliliter for THC, aiming to eliminate false positives from passive exposure.
DOT Resists a Total Ending of All Drug Testing
Pushback on complete cessation of cannabis testing: Despite some urging DOT to stop testing drivers for cannabis altogether, the department has emphasized the importance of safety, citing marijuana-related accidents in the 1980s that led to the initiation of DOT-regulated testing.
Labor Shortages and Medical Cannabis Testing
Impacts on the transportation industry: It's believed that federal marijuana criminalization and the resulting drug testing mandates have contributed to labor shortages and rising costs in the transportation sector. With more accurate and fair testing methods, this could change.
Changes Made at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) & the Secret Service
Revising cannabis-related policies: It's not just the DOT that's reconsidering its stance on cannabis. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Secret Service, and the Biden administration have all made changes to their employment policies regarding past marijuana use.
What's Next for Equality Under the Law for Medical Cannabis Patients?
Calls for further reform: Despite the progress, some, like Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), are pushing for further reform to protect federal workers from being denied security clearances due to marijuana use.
This policy change by the DOT is a landmark moment in America's evolving relationship with cannabis.
As more states move towards legalization, it's clear that the federal stance on cannabis use, especially in relation to employment, is changing too, painting an exciting picture of the future.
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