Feds Clarify: Medical Marijuana Isn’t An Excuse In Drug Testing
Using medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation in accordance with state law is no excuse for failing a drug test, the Trump administration says in a new clarification of federal rules.
“The term ‘prescription’ has become more loosely used in recent years,” the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) writes in a ruling scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Monday. “Some state laws allowing marijuana use the term ‘prescription,’ even though a recommendation for someone to use marijuana under state law is not a prescription consistent with the Controlled Substances Act.”
Under federal regulations, safety-sensitive transportation industry employees are subject to drug testing. In the instance of a positive test, an employee has the opportunity to show that the result was due to their taking a legal prescription medication.
But now, due to growing confusion related to the increasing number of states allowing medical cannabis, the government is adding language to regulations to clarify that the exemption only applies to a “legally valid prescription consistent with the Controlled Substances Act.”
Marijuana is classified under Schedule I of the CSA, a category reserved for drugs that the federal government believes have no medical value. As such, it cannot be prescribed by doctors; they can only recommend it.
“The key point of the phrase we have added is to make sure that a prescription is legally valid. For example, regardless of any state ‘medical marijuana’ laws, there cannot be a legally valid prescription for marijuana, since it remains a Schedule I substance under the CSA,” Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao writes in the new filing.
“Marijuana is a Schedule I drug and, therefore, regardless of the prescribing physician’s intent, it cannot be the basis of a legitimate medical explanation,” the new filing says. “Consistent with longstanding DOT regulatory language and guidance…[Medical review officers] must not treat medical marijuana authorizations under state law as providing a legitimate medical explanation for a DOT drug test that is positive for marijuana.”
The newly clarified rules take effect on January 1.