Legal Blog

Legalized Marijuana and DOT Regulations: What Contractors Need to Know

Medical marijuana flower buds. Recreational marijuana strain. Cannabis strain. Weed bud in the glass jar. Dispensary menu. Hemp buds.isolated on black - medical marijuana conceptThe legal status of marijuana in the United States has been changing rapidly over the last decade. This quick evolution has led to various questions and concerns for business owners, especially those who operate fleets of commercial trucks and employ truck drivers. Nowadays, marijuana is legalized for medical or recreational use in many states across the United States, which raises concerns about how this will impact the transportation industry.


The legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use in many states creates a bit of uncertainty for those that operate fleets of commercial trucks and employ truck drivers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that drivers undergo regular drug testing, and marijuana use can cause a failed test, disqualification of a commercial driver’s license (CDL), and possible termination. Employers need to know the legal ramifications of marijuana use for commercial motor vehicle employees. It’s a good idea to review your company’s drug and alcohol policy to ensure that your policy is compliant with the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing regulations.


If an employee tests positive for drug use, including marijuana, while on duty, the law stipulates that the employer must immediately remove the driver from duty. In this case, the DOT requires drivers to complete a Return-to-Duty process, including treatment plans and drug testing. After an employee meets all requirements, the DOT may allow the employee to return to work. When an employer is well informed regarding what is required under the law, they can act quickly to comply, which is crucial for safe operation and complying with timing requirements under the DOT,  especially after an on-duty accident.


It’s important to recognize and outline restrictions over the use of marijuana so that employees know their obligations. Employees cannot use marijuana on the job and must understand that using marijuana or CBD products is strictly prohibited under federal law for truck drivers. It’s critical to educate employees regarding the importance of abstaining from marijuana use while on duty and the potential consequences of failing a drug test. Often, employees operate under false assumptions about marijuana usage based on headlines around legalization and employee protections. While several states protect employees’ off-duty marijuana usage, they all have exemptions for federally mandated drug testing and sometimes for safety-sensitive positions.


Although marijuana is legal in many states, it remains illegal under federal law, which could impact a driver’s ability to cross state lines with marijuana products. Ultimately, drug testing falls under the jurisdiction of the DOT and supersedes state laws on marijuana legalization. Therefore, business owners must follow DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations to avoid non-compliance issues and maintain a safe workplace.



Contractors should prioritize compliance with DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations to maintain a safe workplace and avoid non-compliance issues. By ensuring your employees understand the importance of abstaining from marijuana use and educating them on the Return-to-Duty process, you can streamline your policies and minimize your legal exposure. Working with legal counsel and keeping abreast of the regulations will go a long way toward creating a safer, more informed workplace and preventing attrition based on misinformation.

ABOUT SARAH SAWYER| 410.209.6413

As an experienced business advisor and litigator, Sarah works with business owners to implement policies and practices that keep their businesses running smoothly, helps them avoid expensive legal battles, and fights for them when litigation arises. Sarah focuses her practice on providing her clients with general business advice, drafting and analyzing employment documents ranging from employment agreements and severance agreements to employee handbooks, and litigating all aspects of general civil and commercial disputes.