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Monday, March 1, 2021

Marijuana: Be careful what you wish for.

The Canadian government is moving toward marijuana legalization, therefore in a proactive way Canadian carriers might want to look at how similar policies in legalized marijuana states impact the trucking industry and its legal responsibilities.

One example, Colorado voters passed a voter referendum in 2012 that authorized the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use, treating it in a manner similar to alcohol. The law took effect on January 1, 2014. Many proponents of the measure viewed enforcement of marijuana laws as a poor use of law enforcement and court resources. Further, many saw that the taxation of this product could significantly increase the state’s revenue, which could be used for primary education as well as drug prevention and rehabilitation programs.

While legalization has been a boon for the state’s tax revenues, a key area of concern was the impact of legalization on highway safety. The impact has been difficult to determine because of the lack of a good, quick, roadside test for marijuana as there is for alcohol. Overall Colorado’s accidents and fatalities are not significantly greater than prior to legalization.

Usage levels for marijuana in Colorado did appear to increase across all age groups since legalization. This, noted HDT, has created a particular problem for the trucking industry in that there is a mandate to require safety-sensitive positions like truck drivers to be drug-free.

Legalization has made an already critical shortage of drivers worse as truck drivers are in violation of the law if there is even a trace of marijuana in their system.

In addition, other positions or jobs in the trucking industry where employees are tested have also seen a spike in failed tests.

While Colorado’s trucking industry anticipated the challenge associated with higher failure rate for drug tests, it did not foresee some of the other challenges associated with legalization.