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December 03, 2012  |   Comments (4)   |   Post a comment

DOT: 'Recreational' pot still off-limits for bus drivers

By Thomas McMahon


WASHINGTON, D.C. — So-called "recreational' use of marijuana may have been legalized in some states, but the drug remains forbidden for safety-sensitive transportation employees — including school bus drivers — federal officials said.

In the November elections, Colorado and Washington state passed initiatives to allow recreational marijuana use. However, it is still an illegal drug under federal law.

On Monday, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance issued a notice to clarify that those state initiatives will have no bearing on the DOT's regulated drug testing program.

Medical review officers will not verify a drug test as negative based on learning that the transportation employee used marijuana recreationally in those states that allow such use, DOT officials said.

The agency also reiterated that the same holds true for transportation employees in states that have passed "medical" marijuana initiatives.

"It remains unacceptable for any safety-sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation's drug testing regulations to use marijuana," Jim Swart, director of the Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance, said in the notice.

Marijuana is still a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The DOT's Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation — 49 CFR Part 40 — does not allow the use of Schedule I drugs for any reason.

Swart said in the clarification notice that his office had gotten several inquiries about whether the state marijuana initiatives would impact the DOT's drug regulation for safety-sensitive transportation employees, which also includes pilots, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators and ship captains, among others.

"We want to assure the traveling public," Swart said, "that our transportation system is the safest it can possibly be."

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Read more about: drug use/testing

Continued: DOT Regulations concerning Commercial drivers. Follow the Supervisor Handbook for Driver Observation techniques and pay attention to details. Back ground checks are only as good as the actual documentation available for commercial drivers driving history records from past employers. Remember one thing - you are always allowed to request a driver submit to a licensed physician's examination and you are required to pay the examination fees. Suspect health or substance abuse issues then be "pro-active" before a preventable accident occurs. Being re-active after an accident happens is much too late to do anything at that point. Proactive means you plan ahead for the "what-if" and then work your plan with the goal of keeping your students and drivers safe at all times. Having the best and newest equipment means nothing if you don't have the safest people available behind the steering wheel. Dan - Indiana

Dan Luttrell    |    Dec 04, 2012 07:17 PM

I did not choose this employment career path to carelessly disregard the high level of safety requirements later in my career just because a State declares it is acceptable to use marijuana as a recreational drug. I expect anyone driving a school bus full of students to be in full control of their faculties at all times. There is NO room for mistakes or allowances for any excuse as a result from any school bus accident because a driver was under the influence of marijuana. Society is bad enough already with drug, alcohol and substance abuse by people. People make bad decisions everyday and choosing that operating a school bus while high or under the influence of any mind altering substances is the wrong decision to make. There is a reason we have DOT CDL Drug and Alcohol testing. The testing did NOT come about because our industry did NOT have drug and alcohol abuse while operating commercial vehicles. The parents of children who send their children to and from school on school buses do NOT need to have to worry about school bus drivers driving under the influence of anything. Drivers even know they have to be careful with any prescription drugs while under the care of their doctors. Even the over-the-counter drugs can and will make you drowsy. The ONLY ones who can keep are industry school bus drivers as safe as possible just happens to be our school bus drivers themselves. School buses don't drive themselves. We want the safest people in the drivers seat we can train. I want to think we have a very high percentage of school bus drivers who never abuse substances. The ones that make the World and US news coverage on our TV screens are usually involved in an accident caused by someone else. There are the ones who made bad decisions and ended up causing the accident. Pin point the root cause of the bad decisions. Don't allow drivers who abuse substances behind the steering wheels. Follow your school system school board policy concerning substance abuse and DOT Regula

Dan Luttrell    |    Dec 04, 2012 07:13 PM

Correction: heron --- heroin/morphine

jkraemer    |    Dec 04, 2012 04:01 PM

Guess some people use alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heron, and onward to mask their miserable lives, and pretty up the damage to mind and body by calling an abused drug recreational. Keep abusing and you can end up qualifying to be a politician. It starts with claims of medical, mental or of some other health benefit, then on to the actual intent -- abusive use. Very disappointing since marijuana is an excellent painkiller for cancer patients without the side effects other drugs cause. But these people are stigmatized because of the flaky abusers of these drugs, and marijuana's potential on the open market is very attractive to abusers just as would be morphine and other controlled drugs, which has nothing at all to do with cancer patients appropriate use. When a drug has nothing to do inside the body or is used in excess is when it can do the most damage, as can many prescription drugs. Nitrostat, and Crestor for example. Extended use of Crestor, especially when prescribed high daily dosage (above 10mg for some) messes with the brain (confusion), and body function (severe leg muscles pain/heart muscle deterioration.) – the side effects of Crestor can be worse than abuse of marijuana. That does not make marijuana good when abused. I'm not against proper use of a drug that helps heal or maintain, but so many abuse these medicines that you have to wonder what is wrong that all these weird escapes are sought out at any cost.

jkraemer    |    Dec 04, 2012 03:55 PM

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