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Can You Have a CDL and a Medical Marijuana Card


I was recently asked a question by my dad (Johnny Green Sr.) that I thought was blog worthy; can you get a medical marijuana card if you are a CDL driver? The answer is yes you can; if you want to eventually lose your CDL and/or your medical marijuana card. Confused? You should be! This is a very confusing area of medical marijuana policy. I will try to provide a thorough explanation, with references. I am not a CDL driver, so I apologize in advance if my ‘lingo’ is not correct. However, my father is a CDL driver, so I have a basic grasp on CDL drug testing requirements.

The main points to remember with CDL drug testing is that they are mandated by the feds (the feds don’t approve of medical marijuana), and that they are given before employement, randomly throughout employement, and after any accident. Before readers try the ‘I thought Obama issued a memo’ argument, realize that the Obama memo only protects against prosecution in federal courts, not against informal suspensions by an administrative agency. The rules governing Commercial Driver Licenses involve both the State and the Feds. Ever since the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, the feds have set the rules, and it is up to the States to carry them out. This means that the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is in charge of drug testing policies, which is why a medical marijuana card is virtually useless in the world of CDL driving.

The reason that I still say ‘yes you can,’ is because TECHNICALLY anyone who has a doctor’s approval can get a medical marijuana card in the 14 states that have medical marijuana programs. After you get the doctor to sign the form, the form is then sent to an overseeing State agency who determines if the application is valid (in Oregon, it is DHS for instance). When the agency checks to see if the form is ‘valid,’ all they are doing is making sure that the doctor is not a fraud — THAT’S IT! They do not have access to a database for every CDL driver in the state, and therefore, they do not check to see if there is any conflict (I personally know some of the staff at Oregon DHS). All the government agency is allowed to do (or has the resources to do) is check for physician fraud.

If the doctor checks out, then the card is issued. It is up to the patient to research how it will affect other areas of their life/employment; the State considers anything else ‘legal advice,’ which they are not allowed to give out (and for good reason; they don’t have any legal education!). So essentially, if you have a doctor’s note and the fee, they will give you a card; any problems that arise from there is the patient’s problem.

Here is a story that highlights how a card can be issued, even if it isn’t supposed to be; I personally know of dozens of convicted drug felons in Oregon that have medical marijuana cards, even though they are not supposed to have them. One of these people was pulled over by a police officer, and tried to use his medical marijuana card as a defense after the officer searched his vehicle and found two ounces of marijuana. The officer seemed OK with the situation at first, but once he ran my friend’s information and it came back showing previous drug felonies, he arrested my friend for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute (the ounces were in two separate bags).

My friend tried to fight it in court, claiming that the State issued him a card and therefore it was valid. However, the trial judge told him that just because you are issued a card, doesn’t mean that it can’t be voided after the fact. When you sign the form, you are stating that all the information is accurate, and that you have personally checked to see that it doesn’t conflict with anything in your life. This applies to CDL drivers too; you will get a medical card issued, but the second you are fired for a failed drug test and try to appeal it before an administrative law judge, you will find out that you might as well have never had a card to begin with.

Now also consider the fact that of the 14 states that allow medical marijuana use, only ONE (Rhode Island) has a provision in their medical marijuana laws that specifically protect employees from being fired for testing positive for marijuana. So regardless if you are a CDL driver, pizza delivery driver, or the guy taking out the garbage at the local fast food establishment, if you test positive for marijuana at any time, you can be fired by your employer; medical marijuana card or not. Of course, if you are one of the 561 medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island, you are covered! How many of them are registered CDL drivers is something I will have to research another day…

However, it’s not COMPLETELY POINTLESS to have a CDL and medical marijuana card simultaneously. The medical marijuana card still serves the purpose of allowing you to grow marijuana, possess marijuana, and even transport marijuana. The only time it would conflict with your CDL is if you consumed marijuana, and then failed a drug test as a result. When I was doing research for this article, I read dozens of blog posts from CDL drivers that ‘can pass a drug test no matter what (wink wink),’ and therefore they are not worried. When they are off work they are protected from the cops, and when they are at work they have taken the ‘necessary precautions’ in the event that a random drug test should arise. If you are crafty enough to be one of these CDL drivers, then getting a medical marijuana card is still worthwhile. However, if you are wanting to get a medical marijuana card, medicate freely, and expect your card to protect you come ‘wiz quiz’ time, I would recommend against it!

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Johnny Green


  1. DOT Office of Drug and Alcohol Policy and Compliance Notice

    Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidelines for Federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of “medical marijuana.” http://www.justice.gov/opa/documents/medical-marijuana.pdf

    We have had several inquiries about whether the DOJ advice to Federal prosecutors regarding pursuing criminal cases will have an impact upon the Department of Transportation’s longstanding regulation about the use of marijuana by safety‐sensitive transportation employees – pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, transit fire‐armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel, among others.

    We want to make it perfectly clear that the DOJ guidelines will have no bearing on the Department of Transportation’s regulated drug testing program. We will not change our regulated drug testing program based upon these guidelines to Federal prosecutors.

    The Department of Transportation’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation – 49 CFR Part 40, at 40.151(e) – does not authorize “medical marijuana” under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee’s positive drug test result.

    That section states:

    § 40.151 What are MROs prohibited from doing as part of the verification process?
    As an MRO, you are prohibited from doing the following as part of the verification process:
    (e) You must not verify a test negative based on information that a physician recommended that the employee use a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. (e.g., under a state law that purports to authorize such recommendations, such as the “medical marijuana” laws that some states have adopted.)

    Therefore, Medical Review Officers will not verify a drug test as negative based upon information that a physician recommended that the employee use “medical marijuana.” Please note that marijuana remains a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. It remains unacceptable for any safety‐sensitive employee subject to drug testing under the Department of Transportation’s drug testing regulations to use marijuana.

    We want to assure the traveling public that our transportation system is the safest it can possibly be.

    Jim L. Swart
    Office of the Secretary of Transportation
    Office of Drug and Alcohol
    Policy and Compliance
    Department of Transportation
    October 22, 2009

    Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2015

  2. Dustin smith on

    Can veterans be a loop hold since they have been approved by the federal government ?

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  7. What if one has a Class 1 lic.
    And a medical marijuana card,
    But never tests positive,and lives in southern california,
    would there be any way you could be denied your lic.

  8. Thank you for the info. I do have a cdl there’s no piss test to have one. Only to get a job or have a medical card(cdl not mmj)

  9. I know the “law” in washington states that its ok, but if DOT ever tested you and it showed as that, your DAC and now your CSA 2010 will have that FAIL on your record and you will be black balled from trucking.

    It’s up to the state to operate under Federal Rulings in some departments, but OVERALL the FMCSA is the one in charge. If you find a company that says ok for you to drive while having a drug test result for THC, then not only are YOU under serious risk, but the Company would face MAJOR charges if they supply proof showing they employed you on the road with a + test result.

    I would NOT advise being a medical user, or even taking a drug that shows up as THC is your an active CDL Driver.

  10. Just to add. Nevada cleary states that NO CDL HOLDER will be issued a Medical Marijuana card in the state! I live in Texas right now and have friends in Reno and have been thinking of relocating out there or SAC so that I can get medical use for spinal stenosis and 2 bad discs.

    First search on google for NV pulled that info and stopped me dead in my tracks. I’ve been a CDL holder/driver for 12 years now and don’t want to give it up incase I’m ever able to return to trucking full time. These days, its too much money and hassel to obtain it and I don’t want to let it go.

    I haven’t found anything in CA that regulates the law strickly towards a CDL holder, so its looking like No Cal will be my resting place once I have the money to move!

    Just an FYI for others out there.

  11. there is drug test that is available in europe that can tell if you smoked within 4 hrs.could this test be used in the same way alcohol tests are for cdl holders?

  12. Eric Just a little fyi for you if you wanna be able to get away with having THC in your system While still obtaining you’re CDL talk with you’re doctor about proscribing you Marinol. Marinol shows up as THC in you’re system but its considered a class 3 drug and doctors can proscribe it for patients Just one thing to remember when you go to take a drug test make sure that you write down on the paper work you fill out that your prescribed Marinol if you dont then you’re gonna pretty much be screwed and kiss getting that job BTW I am a CDL driver in the state of Washington and when i went and got my medical marijuana card i told the doctor I really don’t like smoking cannabis and i dont always smoke it all the time for my pain i usually try and take over the counter pain meds like Tylenol or aspirin but they make me feel nauseous to make a long story short he proscribed me marinol to take away from the side effects of the aspirin and tylenol just thought i would let you know there is away of having a cdl and medical marijuana card and still being able to hold a job down good luck and happy toking

  13. I just wanted to say thx. I’ve had my medical marijuana card for about 4 years, from 2 different states. (yeah was smart enough to move to medical state). I’m trying tget my CDL and your information was very helpful thanks again

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