Overdrive Extra

Jack Roberts

Reefer Madness: How will pot legalization affect trucking?

| January 22, 2013

Let’s talk about pot for minute, shall we?

Once the dust settled after election night last November, and you set about considering the political landscape before you on the morning after, I’m sure you noted that along with all the other stuff that happened, two states – Colorado and Washington – legalized marijuana for recreational use.

You can bet that more than a few potential drivers and technicians would love to get stoned after a hard day at the office and will consider working for a company that doesn’t care if they do a plus.

That’s right: You can now – legally – smoke weed in those two states. And you don’t even have to dream up some BS medical excuse to do so. If you want to get baked, pig out on Little Debbie cakes and watch a Chevy Chase Caddyshack/Vacation marathon on TV, it is now perfectly legal to do so there.

More importantly, this wasn’t a move by some hippie state legislature or some activist liberal judge. It was a straight-up Yes or No vote on the ballot with the clear majority of voters saying they approve of legal marijuana use. The people have spoken. And that’s a hard tide to turn back in a democracy.

Now, if you’re my Mother, who equates smoking pot with dropping acid or injecting high-quality Afghan heroin directly into your veins, this is horrifying news. A little less hysterical reaction can be found in the views of my very conservative colleague, Tom Jackson, who writes for CCJ’s sister magazine, Equipment World: LEGAL POT A BAD DEAL

Clearly, Tom isn’t a fan of this trend. And he’s not alone: There are a lot of older – and conservative – readers out there for both our magazines who aren’t exactly turning cartwheels at the news that weed is now legal in two states.

As a country, we’ve been tap-dancing around this issue since the late ‘60s, at least. And the purpose of this blog today is not to argue whether or not pot is worse for you than Jim Beam whiskey or a few beers. At this point, I think that discussion is moot. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the good people of Colorado and Washington have already decided that issue for the rest of us.

Which means, that in all likelihood, this is an issue that the trucking industry is going to have to face head-on before too much longer. And even if you personally equate legally smoking pot with the downfall of Western Civilization, it looks like you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to keep on making money until the day comes when the whole thing finally falls completely apart and comes crashing down around our heads.

So: the trucking industry has got to start talking about this. Because it is coming. It’s already hard as hell to find drivers and technicians. And you can bet that more than a few potential drivers and technicians would love to get stoned after a hard day at the office and will consider working for a company that doesn’t care if they do a plus.

We don’t know what the Federal government is going to do now that two states have decided to legalize pot. But anyone who thinks Colorado and Washington didn’t bust the pot dam wide open last November is deluding himself. In fact, those Commie Bastards at Rolling Stone magazine think another seven states could potentially legalize pot in the mid-term elections next year: THE NEXT SEVEN STATES TO LEGALIZE POT.  And they’d know, wouldn’t they?

California – which is already a headache for fleets and truckers to operate in — has been leading the way on the legalization front for decades now. And they can’t be happy to discover that Washington and Colorado have upstaged them with full-blown legalization. So I’d say the odds are good it will go legal in ’14. And it’s not just the liberal, west coast states. Consider a legalization bill was on the ballot in trucker-friendly Arkansas, of all places, but failed to pass – although the vote was surprisingly – or alarmingly – close, depending on your point of view; with 49 percent of voters saying “Yea,” and 51 percent saying “Nay.” Who’s to say what will happen the next time legal weed appears on the ballot there – particularly if legalization proves to be a non-event in Colorado and Washington.

At the moment, pot is still illegal on the Federal level. And the DOT is a federal agency. They’ve already ruled that airline pilots can’t smoke recreational marijuana. And they’re currently holding the same line for truck drivers:  POT STILL ILLEGAL FOR TRUCKERS. But is that an outdated reaction? Will that policy remain in place if more states vote for legalization?

If the DOT caves on driver use, then what? Safety concerns will have to be considered. No one will ever suggest that it’s OK to get baked and take a tractor-trailer down the highway anymore than it’s OK to do so while sipping on a gin and tonic. But can drivers smoke in the sleeper when they’re off-duty in states where it’s legal to get stoned? Probably not, given the current prohibition of alcohol in commercial vehicles. How do you test for marijuana consumption? Is there a time limit between the last joint smoked and the on-duty time the next day as there is with alcohol?

And not all drivers are going to be happy about legalization, either. They’ve already got to deal with a whole host of bad drivers during the day. Stoned drivers are already on the roads to be sure. Will legalization bring more of them out?

And what about your office workers and non-driving employees? Can you continue to pre-screen for marijuana use as an employment condition? Or will that be a privacy violation in states where pot is legal? And what about the fact that many fleets have operations scattered all over the country? Are you now going to have to tailor your company policies’ to meet drug laws in different states? And how do deal with an employee who gets legally stoned in Aspen and then drug-tested in Nashville?

Given the unique business characteristics faced by the trucking industry, those questions – and many others – are going to have to be addressed soon.

Again: I think this is coming. Even if only half of the states Rolling Stone thinks will vote on legalization approve measures next year, we’re still looking at something like seven or eight states where marijuana consumption will be legal. And if you’re a national fleet, it’s a sure bet you’re running vehicles in those states. And who knows how many states will see the issue on the ballot in ’16?

The trucking industry has to start addressing these questions and asking some hard questions now. Because this is one issue I just don’t see issue going away.

  • fest777

    why do you consider rolling stone mag a commie front ?, hell i’am more inclined to consider kailfornia a ” commie state” i truck here a let me tell you if carb and epa get together on the fed. level look out rest of the country, it’s already screwed up here in kali. and if you smoke a dube dont drive at least wait till the next day or so, i personally don’t toke but i have had my share in the early day’s of the 70′s, even got a felony for a roach thank god for diversion it had just started

  • Bill Morton

    I have been trucking for 32 years and I do enjoy a good joint from time to time. I am an O/OP and I just ignore the random drug test and I have never been called out on it… I am retiring now because the communist state of Calif. is forcing me out of Business with there ARB laws… I know many other truckers are going to be put out of Business because of the unfair Calif. Laws, it is just another way the state is chasing away Business in Calif… CALIFORNIA SUCKS !!!

  • fest777

    and this is to you jack roberts, just like your headline reads reefer madness ! you look some what young but most know that ” reefer madness” was the utmost in american propaganda, like jack web said in dragnet 1968 or i forgot you were still in your dad’s nut’s back then, quote: marijuana is the flame heroin is the fuse lsd is the bomb. get off the good old boy dogma and catch up with the times, time dc , carolina western, willig,icx,garret,pie, there all gone into trucking heaven, were going into a new era, who know’s what lay’s ahead, i see nothing but more red tape and restrictions, keep it up good ol’e d.o.t. and state and fed’s and your going to lock up the whole country by stopping the commerce that the trucking industry serves, roberts your just a mouthpiece for the big corporation’s , the own/opp is gone, there are a few still hanging on, kali lost 40% of it’s own/opp’s in the last 2 years, is that not a large amount !. i could go on forever but this will all fall on death ear’s, corporation’s have ruined the trucking industry for own/opp with there $ 1.00 a mile come on man that’s a bone to opperate on, i have been hearing that $ 1.00 a mile for over 27 year’s. in the end they won own/opp lost no if ans but’s i’am gone fest777 out

  • fest777

    i agree with you bill i have almost the same time as you do in. i stared in 1979 at the age of 21 i have slowed down a lot in the last 2 years, i got a call from the cal dot to do my bi annual terminal inspection about 2 month’s ago, an i told them i but in for voluntary withdraw and he hung up asap, cal dot go bother someone esle, sorry to hear you go, ia’m in the l.a. area keep on trucking bro

  • jess mcclure

    there will come a time when the lawyers will be there when they find the pot in your system after a major crash and then the fun starts – like drunk driving i believe you will end up having the same or worse effect on your driving record and/or jail , prison.
    Driving with 80,000 pounds will not be looked at in court with the same eyes as driving a 3,000 lb Prius with two kids, besides if someone dies from your smoke break the law will have no mercy on your soul. go ahead and smoke but use caution and be wise out there and safe.

  • Chuck

    Prohibition did not work for alcohol and the 30 plus war on drugs, specifically Cannabis has not worked. Placing Cannabis on schedule 1 with Heroin, Cocaine and Meth is asinine and ridiculous. There are professionals from every realm of the working population that actively use Cannabis without any repercussions. Why is it anymore dangerous for a trucker to use Cannabis on the weekend and drive during the week than a doctor or lawyer to do the same thing and preform their jobs?

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.vecellio.7 Craig Vecellio

    What surprises me most about this is the fact that our medical technology can’t test specifically enough to determine if the pot was smoked prior to driving. That will have to be dealt with, like it or not. Legal or not, it’s not safe to smoke and drive. Otherwise, marijuana prohibition was started after WWI as a political move. During the war, there was a labor shortage, so the border with Mexico was opened. After the war, the soldiers wanted their old jobs back. The Federal gov’t needed an excuse to deport the Mexicans that entered the country legally during the war. Since marijuana grows wild in Mexico, it was used culturally. The Federal government’s solution was to require the purchase of a stamp, like a permit. Then they simply neglected to print the stamps, making the use of marijuana illegal by default. From there, it developed social stigma associated with criminal behavior, which led to the prohibition we know today.

  • jamaskaralis

    Good ! They should stop drug testing for pot and just get over it I am 61 years old and was around when trucking was fun , and Jack i remember when a lot of drivers smoked weed . And i can tell you for sure there was a better class of driver out here then, we stuck together and it was a sin to rat on a driver . These boys out here now are a little on the strange side to say the least .

  • jimmy the greek

    They can ! see how meny parts per million of thc is in the blood

  • Live talk

    Bla, bla, bla truckers are smoking now even before the law. We don’t see big write-ups in the newspapers and on evening news about truckers caught for smoking pot, or caused fatal accident due to smoking pot. And random drug tests, it’s everyone’s guess how well it’s enforced.
    So the way I see it truckers in the state of Washington and Coldorado can legally smoke pot if they run Intrastate under State DOT. They do not require an MC# to run Intrastate, and the local DOT is a state agency and not a Federal agency.

  • Ronald Schwartz

    My exposure over a lifetime can attest that poor common sense dictates major incidence in any field. Drivers cultivated today, lack critical judgement ability, due mainly to their mechanical ineptitude. These people who enter our industry, still fail to slow when conditions warrant, anticipate situations ahead, or consider the dynamics of the equip. beneath them. The odds of incident are much larger than those that seek stress relief at the lowest levels. While I understand the preconceived notions and unqualified opinions of the underexposed, mj use is of little or no consequence in moderate amounts. While sobriety of our majority is commendable…..its not for everyone. I’ve seen plenty of sober drivers exibit poor skills and judgement. If abuse is in our industry….why wouldn’t we make an option for its lowest level? Lots of good dependable people have been bounced for seeking relief in this arena, only to be replaced by those that represent higher risk and anxiety.

  • karen s c

    jack, i know some people who drives semis, who drink quite a bit. Most of them drink the nite before, and u can smell it on them the next day. When you drink alot, it stays in your system for awhile.So what makes that ok? Usually when someone gets picked for smoking pot, they r doing other things with it, like drinking. They always get u for smoking pot, not the alcohol.My husband runs a trucking business, thats why i am around truckers. : )

  • ilovdieselsmoke

    Yep , this is going to get really interesting for trucking… You won’t by accident get second hand acohol to show up in your system but you can certainly have second hand pot in your system. Just hanging around a few friends, girl friend or in a place where it’s being smoked “legally”, even though you don’t participate, can cause an inaccurate test result so there goes the CDL & job!!!!!

  • Mike

    I would MUCH rather share the road with someone after they’ve smoked pot the night before than share the road with someone who is hung over from a night of drinking or hazy from all the legal prescription pills they are taking.

    Continuing to spend billions of dollars on a war we’ve been fighting for 40 years which has yielded the opposite results we were looking for would be insane (almost the the exact definition of insanity). We need to legalize, regulate, and tax the living crap out of it.

    Yes, I am a pot smoker, and I’m BEGGING to be taxed! I’m sick of being a criminal simply because I enjoy a hit off the bowl instead of a drink from the glass. I do not consume any alcohol, period. Instead, I choose a much healthier and a much safer alternative. In a free country, as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, that should be my choice and my right.

    Prohibition is crumbling right in front of our eyes and I, for one, am enjoying the front row seat as I watch it all happen.

    On another note, just a few days ago, an appeals court refused to declassify marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the federal government still sees marijuana as being just as dangerous as heroin with no known medical benefits. Yet on the other side of their mouth, they are against legalization because it will send “mixed messages” to kids. What a joke.

  • Mike

    Actually, your statement is very inaccurate. Being around second hand smoke will not introduce enough THC into your system to zing you on a drug test. You’d have to pretty much be locked in a closet with a group of people smoking a blunt for an hour for this to happen. So your hypothetical situation is quite unlikely.

    Besides, drug tests show false positives all the time even without second hand smoke. This entire drug war is a sham.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Minder-Kat/100002121670952 Minder Kat

    Agreed: CALIFORNIA SUCKS. (So does NY, CT, MA and MD, but for different reasons)

  • http://www.facebook.com/thumper.pruitt Thumper Pruitt

    As far as I am concerned, pot should be treated the same as any alcoholic beverage. You shouldn’t drink and drive and you shouldn’t smoke a joint and drive, however what one does when they are not driving should be their own business, but regulating it the same as alcohol seems prudent.

  • The Dude

    Weed is good medicine

  • lastgoodusername

    i thought this article was about chicken hauling.should have read more than the title i guess.

  • guy that use to drive tankers

    ok I was a fuel tanker driver for 20 yrs and the best part of the job back in the old days was to after loading your product turning on your music getting the freeway and fireing up a nice joint to smoke just crusing down the highway enjoying the drive and watching the dummies on the road lol never had an accident or ticket while high the guys that didn’t smoke are the guys that showed the stress of the roadway

  • randy

    I think they will have to come up with some kind of testing like they do for alcohol.Commom sense has to prevail this is going to be a huge issues in coming years.I have over 3 millions miles logged in my time driving and smoke pot all thru my driving career and no accident .I think the small minded people that think pot is a schedule 1 drug is very misimformed I for one don’t drink don’t like the way alcohol makes me feel the next day(hang over) and never feel hung over the next day with pot.get better sleep/rest than those who drink.It’s not the 60′s or 70′s people it’s 2014 times are changing for the better I would hope..all the new rules and regulation we have to deal with and no voice in any of them is shameful this industry once stuck together and still could we all have the awnswer in our hands,just don’t start your truck shutem down for 2 weeks.MONEY is top of that list and what we do on our own time is nobodys bussines but ours