In May, several national news outlets reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is likely moving forward with the federal reclassification of marijuana.

Currently, marijuana is federally designated as a Schedule I substance, “meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.” Reportedly, the DEA may reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug, recognizing its medical uses.  

What could this mean in terms of public safety?

With many states having legalized marijuana, the public may ask why this is significant news. It’s important to keep in mind that federally regulated employees in safety-sensitive roles must be compliant with federal drug testing regulations – no matter what local or state laws say. Pilots, bus drivers, commercial truckers, train conductors, etc. are currently subject to drug testing by the U.S. Department of Transportation and marijuana in its current classification is among the substances that are tested for.  

However, according to American Substance Abuse Professionals, “The reclassification could automatically remove marijuana from the DOT testing panel unless there is a specific regulatory exemption for DOT safety-sensitive employees. In the last four years, over 144,000 commercial drivers tested positive for marijuana. This does not include flight crew members, aircraft maintenance, train conductors or bus drivers. Surveys reveal that 1 in 4 people who use marijuana get high at work.  Currently, the technology to prove real-time marijuana impairment does not exist. There is no marijuana impairment test equivalent to a roadside alcohol test. In the absence of DOT testing for marijuana or a valid real-time test, there is no protection for the traveling public from impaired operators.”

In other words, if marijuana is removed from the DOT testing panel, the entire traveling public is at risk because there would be nothing to prevent your child’s school bus driver or your airplane pilot from going to work high.

The Importance of a Safety Carve-Out

The drug and alcohol testing industry and its partners are advocating for a specific regulatory exemption that would ensure continuing testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees called a “Safety Carve-Out.”

If you are concerned about the potential unintended safety consequences of the reclassification of marijuana, we urge you to reach out to your legislators to advocate for a Safety Carve-Out.

The National Drug and Alcohol Screening Association has made it easy for you. Read NDASA’s statement and click on the links at the bottom to contact your representatives in the House and U.S. Senate.