How Do State Marijuana Laws Impact DOT Drug Tests?

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The state of California legalized medical marijuana use back in 1996, and since then, 39 states have followed suit. With medical marijuana legal in nearly 80% of the United States, it’s logical to assume that the Department of Transportation has let their guard down regarding THC drug testing. That’s not exactly the case though. Let’s review how state marijuana laws affect DOT drug tests so you can make the appropriate adjustments.

Each State Has Its Own Laws for Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana Usage

Marijuana regulations vary greatly by state. Many states only permit medical marijuana use for specific situations, while others allow both medical and recreational use.

Medical marijuana is used to treat or manage symptoms from certain conditions, such as anxiety, PTSD, chronic pain, and asthma. Recreational marijuana is for pleasure, though it may be used as home remedy for various conditions.

To legally purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary, you need a medical marijuana card and a corresponding doctor’s prescription. The regulations for recreational use are not as strict. In all cases, the specific rules for consumption, growth, storage, etc. will be at the state level.

How State Marijuana Laws Affect DOT Drug Testing Regulations

The Department of Transportation is a federal agency, not a state agency. Thus they operate based on federal regulations. Because medical marijuana is not legal on a national level, the DOT does not permit THC consumption for safety-sensitive employees.

According to a Medical Marijuana Notice from the Department of Transportation, the DOT “does not authorize ‘medical marijuana’ under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result.” In other words, if THC shows up in your DOT drug test, that will be considered a failed test result.

What about CBD?

CBD is not regulated in the same way THC is. You can easily purchase it throughout the country. Although THC products often boast an extremely low percentage of THC, those dosage measurements aren’t always reliable. It is possible that using CBD products may result in a failed drug test, but it is less likely than consuming THC. Proceed with caution if you are a DOT-regulated employee.

How Long Should a Marijuana User Wait before DOT Pre-Employment Drug Testing?

If you currently use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, you may want to wait a bit before applying for a DOT job and taking a pre-employment drug test. The DOT uses a 5-panel urinalysis to detect marijuana. THC can stay in urine up to 30 days, depending on how frequent your consumption is and how quickly your body processes it.

Stop your THC consumption about a month before your pre-employment test for your best chance at getting a negative result.

What to Do If You Fail a Drug Test for Marijuana

If you fail a DOT drug test for marijuana, you’ll need to complete a SAP program. This is a personalized process guided by a DOT-qualified Substance Abuse Professional (SAP). Your SAP will outline some steps for you to complete, and then you’ll take a Return-to-Duty drug test. Assuming you pass that test, you’ll be cleared to return to safety-sensitive work.