If Marijuana is Reclassified, What Jobs Might It Impact? - American Society of Employers - Michael Burns

If Marijuana is Reclassified, What Jobs Might It Impact?

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I narcotic down to a Schedule III drug. Schedule I controlled substances are in the “mean street neighborhood” including heroin, LSD, and other drugs with “no currently acceptable medical use or treatment.” Schedule III drugs, on the other hand, where it is proposed marijuana be moved to is in a “friendlier neighborhood” of classified drugs including ketamine, anabolic steroids, and some codeine infused drug combinations.

Before this change can happen the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has to take input from the public and determine if the proposed change is appropriate. This determination process follows an administrative procedure in place to properly follow the administrative procedures within the federal government. Until this process is complete, marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug.

Though many employers still voluntarily test for marijuana use by applicants and employees, some employers must conduct testing under the Federal Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act. This law requires all Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies covered by them to implement drug and alcohol testing for “safety sensitive” jobs. Agencies covered are the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration. These agencies require mandatory drug testing for all identified jobs.

A recent survey by ASE found 47.4% of employers responding tested their union workforce because of DOT requirements. 32.4% tested their non-union workforce due to DOT requirements, and 19% and 17.3% of respondents tested their clerical and technical positions and their Exempt Supervisory, Managerial, and Professional workers.

The jobs covered by these agencies are pilots, school bus drivers, truck drivers, train engineers, subway operators, aircraft maintenance personnel, armed security personnel, ship captains, and pipeline emergency response personnel.

DOT regulations require drug testing for five classes of drugs. These are

  1. Marijuana metabolites
  2. Cocaine metabolites
  3. Amphetamines
  4. Opioids
  5. Phencyclidine (PCP).

Required testing under the DOT regulations are pre-employment, random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, return-to-duty, and follow-up drug testing per each agency’s regulations.

Even if marijuana is moved to a Schedule III drug, this would only change it to a drug that could possibly be used for medical purposes, so recreational use would not be protected. It would also remain to be seen whether the DOT would in turn change their compliance requirements. So, this proposed change to marijuana use and the workplace has a way to go.


Sources: Lexology. Proposed Marijuana Reclassification and Impact on Employers. Greenberg Traurig LLP (5/22/2024)

ASE 2024 Michigan Policies and Practices Survey

Please login or register to post comments.


Filter by Authors

Position your organization to THRIVE.

Become a Member Today