Uniform marijuana laws needed to make life easier for carriers

For the sake of Canadian and American truck drivers, carriers across North America, and law enforcement, the U.S. federal government really needs to step up and make a decision on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Say what you will about Canada’s decision to legalize the substance, but at the very least, people, businesses, and enforcement know that if you are north of 49th Parallel – more accurate for Western Canada, so come on, give me a break – you can smoke and eat it to your heart’s content.

Though I have nothing against legalizing cannabis, as I don’t believe it’s any more dangerous than alcohol, I do have issue with the timing of its acceptance in Canada. With nearly 2,000 people dying in car accidents every year in Canada, many as a result of impairment, I don’t believe any controlled substance should be legalized before there is an accurate, reliable way to test for it in drivers.

Why would any politician want to hand a 19-year-old an intoxicating substance that has no reliable testing method and no accurate timeframe for how long the user will remain impaired, who can then get into a vehicle and drive? Oh right…votes.

Anyway, I digress. In the U.S., this issue is all over the map. Some states allow marijuana for recreational use, others only for medicinal purposes, while in some it remains illegal.

It’s time to get it together, ‘United’ States. The fact that someone can have a joint in British Columbia, where it is completely legal, and look to visit a friend in the State of Washington, where it’s also completely legal, and be arrested at the border and possibly tossed in jail for breaking U.S. federal law, is preposterous.

Even the American Trucking Associations (ATA) want their federal government to stop dodging this issue and pass a nationwide law to regulate marijuana.

For carriers and drivers within Canada, this issue is a simple one. Marijuana is legal to use, and it should be treated just like alcohol for commercial drivers, with a zero-tolerance policy.

I know there are some who use cannabis for medical purposes – and my thoughts on this would be a another full column, as I question why these users can’t either use marijuana with no THC or another drug that has the same effect, but again I digress – but for the sake of safety on the road, they just cannot use while operating a truck. Their need for marijuana does not outweigh everyone else’s safety.

Canadian carriers hauling cross-border, and U.S. carriers operating among states with conflicting marijuana laws are all being put in an unfair predicament. One with conflicting messages and outdated punishments.

Now, if the U.S. is wavering on this issue because of the very reason I said Canada should have – the need to have reliable testing – then say so. Pass a law banning the substance nationwide until such testing is more accurate.

But with Canada and 11 states, including the District of Columbia, all allowing for unrestricted use of cannabis, I fear we are beyond the point of complete banishment. Besides, making marijuana illegal has stopped very few from using it anyway.

So, it’s time for the U.S. government to step up and make a decision on marijuana use. Make life a little bit easier for those in transportation, and for anyone wondering if they are in a green state or one that will throw the book at them.

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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