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Lawmakers Must ‘Step Up’ And Address Federal-State Marijuana Conflict, Trucking Executive Tells Cong

Lawmakers Must ‘Step Up’ And Address Federal-State Marijuana Conflict, Trucking Executive Tells Congress Amid Labor Shortage

PublishedFebruary 6, 2023

By Kyle Jaeger

The state and federal marijuana policy conflict is creating a “litigious environment” for the trucking industry and contributing to the challenges of a major labor shortage, the head of the American Trucking Association (ATA) told Congress on Wednesday.

During a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Michael Bost (R-IL) asked ATA President Chris Spear about how much the state-level legalization movement is impacting the trucking sector, particularly as it concerns drug testing requirements.

Spear said that it was an issue that “keeps me up at night,” emphasizing his concern about impaired driving and the legal liability for the industry if a person gets into an accident under the influence.

“We’re regulated by the federal government. We cannot have anyone impaired using marijuana or any other narcotic operating this equipment,” he said. “So this channel conflict between the federal rules and the states allowing—this ambiguity is creating a litigious environment, and we’re caught right in the middle of it.”

“Somebody’s got to step up to the plate and put safety first. Want to smoke weed at home? Smoke weed at home. If it’s legal, fine,” he said. “Do not get behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound vehicle. We need to have strong standards, and we need to enforce the law.”

At the same time, he said that the issue is “tough,” because there’s a 78,000-worker deficit in the trucking sector and he wants to incentivize people to apply. “This is an issue that, I pose to you all, we’ve got to work on.”

Spear didn’t explicitly acknowledge the challenges resulting from federal drug screening requirements for truckers, but that appears to be a major contributing factor to the labor shortage—not people wanting to drive while impaired but failing drug tests that can detect THC metabolites for weeks or months after a person consumes.