Last week, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) launched a new survey seeking motor carrier input on the impact of legalizing marijuana on the trucking industry’s workforce. The survey is a follow-up to ATRI’s 2019 Marijuana Legalization and Impaired Driving: Solutions for Protecting our Roadways.
Data gathering on the issue of marijuana impairment on the roads and in the industry is increasingly important as more states move to legalize recreational marijuana. Nationally, there are 21 states where recreational marijuana has been legalized. The latest states – Vermont and New York, which were added in late 2022 – round out a list of others in the northeast, including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington, DC. A legalization bill that passed last year in Delaware was vetoed by Governor John Carney.
After medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania in 2016, lawmakers debated legalizing recreational cannabis for several years, and Governor Josh Shapiro has been a long-time proponent of recreational marijuana legalization, so it is likely that this issue will be considered soon in Pennsylvania.
Last year, several hearings were held on a bipartisan bill that would set a minimum age of 21 for marijuana consumption and expunge non-violent marijuana crime convictions. The existing medical marijuana program would become the basis for distribution through licenses, and limited home growing would be permitted for medical marijuana patients. Micro-cultivation licenses would be issued to farmers and craft growers.
Last year, two studies on the relationship between marijuana legalization and crash rates found that injury and fatal crash rates rose 6% and 4%, respectively, in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington after marijuana was legalized in these states compared to other western states. According to insurance records, collision claims also increased similarly.
As for the impact on truck drivers, where any use of marijuana is prohibited, legalization (whether medicinal or recreational) is presenting a challenge for the industry. Over the course of the 3-year period of testing through the clearinghouse, marijuana has been the most common positive drug result. Of 171,957 substances identified in violations, 95,076 or 55% were positive marijuana tests. It is concerning that, of 113,995 drivers in prohibited status in the clearinghouse due to a positive drug test, 86,500 of them have not started the return-to-duty process. In an industry with a driver shortage of 78,000, it is clear that marijuana use is affecting trucking’s workforce.
Legalization affects the trucking industry in several ways, including the drivers trucks encounter on the roads around them as well as the ability to recruit and retain truck drivers.
For legalization updates in Pennsylvania, stay tuned or contact your state House or Senate member.
To have your say on the impact of marijuana legalization on the trucking industry’s workforce, please complete ATRI’s survey. The results of this survey may be used by PMTA to advocate in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly on this issue.
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