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Trucking industry group opposes federal effort to reclassify marijuana

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Washington — Federal action aimed at easing restrictions on marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act “may have considerable negative consequences for highway safety and safety-sensitive industries,” the American Trucking Associations claims.

Dan Horvath, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and safety policy at ATA, sent a letter on May 15 to the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Transportation.

The correspondence preceded a May 21 notice of proposed rulemaking from DOJ and the Drug Enforcement Administration seeking comment on rescheduling marijuana to a Schedule III controlled substance from Schedule I. Although such a move wouldn’t legalize marijuana at the federal level, it would change its classification to a drug with “lower degree of abuse potential” and “a moderate to low level of physical dependence,” the notice states.

Cannabis has long been a Schedule I substance prohibited under federal law, categorized with drugs including heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote.

Because the federal government tests safety-sensitive workers for only Schedule I or II controlled substances, ATA is concerned that “without additional action, deregulation or rescheduling of marijuana would have the likely consequence of precluding testing for all professional drivers and transportation workers as part of the DOT testing program,” Horvath writes.

He adds: “If the trucking and broader transportation industries’ ability to conduct drug testing is restricted, the risk of impaired drivers operating on our nation’s roadways undetected would increase, endangering all who share the road.”

As of March, marijuana represented nearly 60% of positive employer drug tests of regulated truck drivers reported to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, the letter notes.

The proposal postdates President Joe Biden’s October 2022 request to the attorney general and HHS to “review expeditiously how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”

DOJ and DEA say that “if marijuana is transferred into Schedule III, the manufacture, distribution, dispensing and possession of marijuana would remain subject to the applicable criminal prohibitions of the CSA.

“Any drugs containing a substance within the CSA’s definition of ‘marijuana’ would also remain subject to the applicable prohibitions in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

Comments on the proposal are due July 22.

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