October 28th, 2016

Legalizing Marijuana Could Lead to More Traffic Accidents

There has been a lot of coverage in the news lately about the possible legalization of Marijuana here in Vermont.

I ask that before we jump on this bandwagon, we analyze the facts from both sides and look at the negative effect it can have on businesses located here in Vermont.

First, we must keep in mind that the possession of Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that some industries, including The Vermont Truck and Bus Association members, are highly regulated by both state and federal laws. The laws clearly prohibit commercial motor vehicle drivers from using marijuana while operating a commercial motor vehicle, or at any time being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which includes Marijuana. After all Marijuana is a mind altering drug.

This is where the second problem begins. There are many studies that support these facts.

The length of time the chemical component of Marijuana (THC) can be detected in a drug test will vary depending on 3 factors. 1) Frequency of use. 2) Method of use. 3) Type of drug test used. For example; an occasional user that smokes Marijuana that is tested with a urine sample, could test positive for up to 30 days. This same scenario with a hair follicle test could test positive up to 90 days and a regular user could test positive for up to 180 days. Marijuana used by switching to oils or edibles increase the potency and length of time the THC stays in one’s body.

This now becomes a legal nightmare for any company that employs commercial motor vehicle drivers. If a commercial driver is involved in a crash and the driver is cited for a moving violation and a vehicle is towed from the scene or anyone involved in the crash receives medical treatment away from the crash site or if there is a fatality, the commercial motor vehicle driver is subject to a mandatory drug and alcohol test within 2 hours of the crash to be compliant with the Federal regulations. A positive test could result from this post accident test even if the driver had not used marijuana in several days.

This means the company that employs this driver is most likely to be involved in a serious lawsuit even if it has been weeks since this driver has used Marijuana. Based on what insurance rates are today, insurance costs will rise to levels that are unobtainable for the average transportation company in Vermont.

If the State of Vermont decides to legalize the use and possession of Marijuana, it’s clearly a step toward unnecessary highway crashes, injuries and deaths. More vehicle operators will be driving in an impaired state, regardless of federal rules and regulations, and the safety of the general traveling public will be diminished. Imagine working next to a person that is performing a safety sensitive function under the influence or worst case scenario, a substitute school bus driver is called in to cover an afternoon route at the last minute. If the driver ingested Marijuana edibles prior to reporting for duty, there is no detection upon arriving to work, as the effects hadn’t kicked in yet. An hour later, the bus driver is under the influence with a bus load of kids operating on our highways making critical driving decisions with our youth on board.

Our legislators need to take a long and careful look at highway safety before legalizing Marijuana. If you’re concerned about highway safety, one thing is clear; this is a step in the wrong direction.

Roland Bellavance
President, Vermont Truck and Bus Association

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