In reviewing the Charlotte County school district’s policy on drug and alcohol testing of commercial driver’s license holders, the board hit a slight road bump recently.
“How do we define use that would impair?” School Board member Kim Amontree asked at a recent board workshop.
A CDL holder includes regular and substitute bus drivers, as well as “other staff members who drive, inspect, repair and maintain Board-owned vehicles that require a CDL to operate,” according to the policy.
Currently, the policy states that CDL holders with the district must comply with the drug-free schools mission, which outlaws the possession, use, sale or distribution of alcohol and controlled substances on school property. Also, federal law fordbids CDL holders from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on duty.
The issue members brought to light, however, came from the line “[controlled substance] does not include any legally obtained prescription drug used for its intended purpose in its prescribed quantity unless such use would impair the individual’s ability to safely perform safety-sensitive functions.”
Medical marijuana has been legal in Florida since 2016, though drivers can still get a DUI for it.
“It’s only a matter of time before we have employees using medical marijuana, maybe we already do,” Amontree said.
Assistant Superintendent Jerry Olivo noted, regardless of legality, there are plenty of medications people should not drive on.
“If I hurt my arm and the doctor puts me on Percocet, I should inform my supervisor, because I should not be driving, period.”
But what if you use medical marijuana off-duty, and it still shows up in tests? There’s no field test to see if drivers are under the influence of marijuana, like there is with alcohol and, depending on how often one takes medical marijuana, it can still appear on urine tests anywhere from five days after last use to over two months. There is nothing to differentiate “currently under the influence” from “they used at some point.”
Chairman Ian Vincent proposed this predicament: Imagine one person took prescribed Percocet in the evening and drove a bus the next day, and another smoked medical marijuana that same evening and drove a bus the next day, and they crashed into each other. One of them would keep their job — and it isn’t the one prescribed marijuana — even though neither was under the influence at the time of the accident, according to Vincent.
“I’d rather be proactive than reacting when the situation arises,” Amontree said on revising the policy.
However, the board ultimately decided to shelve the idea until further research could be done.
“You would have to do what we never do which is the every contingency policy,” Vincent said. He added they should look into what other states and districts that have dealt with medical and recreational marijuana longer are doing.
“Stay tuned, we’ll need to get more information. They’ve done their best. The best we can do for now is be prepared,” Olivo said.