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Changing marijuana laws don't change trucker requirements

Across the country, attitudes toward marijuana have grown more lenient. Ohio has new medicinal marijuana rules on the books and multiple states have legalized the drug for recreational use in various forms.

One area that marijuana hasn't gained leniency is with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and its regulation of truck drivers. Truck drivers must schedule regular medical check-ups to make sure they're not a risk on the roads for any health-related reason. Drug tests are a key part of that and, whether prescribed or not, marijuana is off limits in the trade.

Federal classification

Marijuana needs a federal reclassification before employers will reexamine official policy. Although states have loosed restrictions locally, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance. Federal law has jurisdiction over any state law, and that's especially relevant for commercial drivers, who are federally regulated.

No medical marijuana for truck drivers either

Because federal law supersedes state, the DOT has determined that truck drivers can't use medicinal marijuana and maintain their licenses either. Even if prescribed by a legitimate doctor, using the drug is a violation of policy and any trucker who gets a doctor's note should immediate request an alternative medication. A positive test could spell the loss of his commercial driver's license (CDL).

CDLs and intoxicants

Getting a CDL isn't the same as getting a regular driver's license, with a written test and eye exam. Truck drivers are held to a higher standard of health, vision and sobriety. Besides the medical and drug testing, a single alcohol or drug infraction can cost a driver his license and, thus, his career.

Even when operating a personal vehicle off the clock, a commercial driver cannot consume alcohol and drive. For a standard license the legal BAC limit for a DUI is .08%. For a CDL holder, it is .04%.

Given the severe size differential between regular cars and commercial trucks, any accident that involves a semi is likely to cause serious damage and, often, serious injury. To minimize potentially negligent drivers, truckers are held to strict guidelines. If you've been in an accident, consulting with an attorney and accessing a thorough report of the incident may prove that the driver wasn't following protocol. Medical marijuana may be legal in Ohio, but truck drivers cannot use the drug under any condition. When a commercial driver violates his CDL, there's more at stake than his career.

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