People who operate airplanes, locomotives, trucks and buses would still be in violation of Department of Transportation rules against drug use if they use marijuana, despite a reported shift by federal law enforcement against prosecuting medical use of the drug.
DOT’s Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance issued a clarifying notice Oct. 22, after getting queries about how the new policy stance by the Department of Justice might affect transportation workers.
“It remains unacceptable,” the notice said, “for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana.”
Attorney General Eric Holder this week issued new guidelines for U.S. attorneys, advising them not to pursue people for prosecution who use marijuana in clear compliance with state laws allowing medical use.
Afterward, DOT began receiving calls about whether that medical-use situation could exempt transportation workers, in states where it is legal. DOT requires that people who test positive for marijuana be removed from jobs that can affect safety pending a review and treatment.
“We want to make it perfectly clear that the DOJ guidelines will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program,” wrote Jim Swart, director of the Drug and Alcohol Policy office. “We will not change our regulated drug testing program based upon these guidelines to Federal prosecutors.”
His notice said the rules cover “safety-sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire-armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.”
DOT’s drug and alcohol testing regulation, he said, “does not authorize ‘medical marijuana’ under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result.”
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