In the first three months of 2022, over ten thousand truck drivers were disciplined after testing positive for pot, adding to an ongoing trucker shortage that's exacerbating the country's serious supply chain issues.
Back in 2020, the federal government launched a new program to crack down on drug use by federally licensed truckers. That January, the Department of Transportation (DOT) increased the random drug testing rate for truck drivers from 25 percent of all drivers to 50 percent. At the same time, the feds created the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, a registry that records the names of any licensed truck driver that fails a random employment drug check.
Between January 2020 and November 2021, over 72,000 truckers lost their jobs after testing positive for drugs. About a third of these truckers tested positive for meth or other stimulants, but 56 percent of them only tested positive for weed. Traditional urinalysis drug tests are very effective at determining whether someone is drunk or high on coke at the time of the test. THC metabolites can remain in the bloodstream for months, though, so these tests cannot accurately identify if a trucker was actually stoned while driving.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 37 states, and adult-use weed is legal in 19 states, but the federal government still maintains a zero-tolerance policy for cannabis. “While states may allow medical use of marijuana, federal laws and policy do not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana,” the DOT states in a drivers' handbook, according to KPLC News. “Even if a state allows the use of marijuana, DOT regulations treat its use as the same as the use of any other illicit drug.”
Despite the fine print in the handbook, many drivers are unaware of this discrepancy between statewide legalization and federal prohibition. Between January 1st and April 1st of 2022, 10,276 truckers have already tested positive for cannabis. The percentage of failed pot tests is nearly 33 percent higher than the 7,750 cannabis violations recorded in the first three months of 2021.
Because piss tests for pot are so ineffective, the feds cannot even confirm that any of these drivers were actually driving while stoned. But thanks to the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, most truckers who fail these tests will be blacklisted, preventing them from getting hired again even if they move to another state. Some federally-legal CBD products can even trigger failed tests for THC, so drivers that remain sober are even at risk of losing their careers.
Covid concerns, shrinking wages, and an aging population of experienced truckers contribute to the largest shortage of licensed truck drivers that the country has ever seen. In late 2021, the American Trucking Associations reported a shortage of 80,000 drivers, an all-time record. The lack of licensed drivers is in turn making the country's extreme supply chain issues even worse. And as the supply chain stagnates, consumer prices will continue to rise, deliveries will be delayed, and people will still struggle to find baby formula and other essential items.
But despite this growing shortage of drivers, the DOT is still content to revoke thousands of commercial driver's licenses every month over failed cannabis tests. Financial analysts have even pointed out how federal cannabis testing is directly responsible for worsening supply chain issues, but the feds continue to cling to their outdated prohibition policies.