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Marijuana vote does not change trucking restrictions

With the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use expanding after the 2016 elections, there is greater potential for Georgia authorities to encounter drivers who have used the drug recently. Florida's legalization of the drug for medical purposes brings the issue closer than ever for Georgia residents living near the state border. While those driving personal vehicles could raise legal challenges related to testing for pot impairment, the trucking industry is expected to retain its existing ban on the use of marijuana and other Schedule I drugs.

The U.S. Department of Transportation indicates that the Schedule I designation will continue to require prohibition of marijuana for truck drivers. If any changes are to be made, they must be initiated by the nation's Office of National Drug Control Policy. Drivers will also continue to be subject to drug testing requirements.

Statistically, 25 percent of the nation's residents live in states that have passed measures to legalize the recreational use of pot. More than half of all states have approved the use of marijuana for medical needs. Driving regulations related to marijuana will need to be addressed as greater access to the drug leaves room for potential instances of driving under its influence. Today's testing methods tend to evaluate the presence of THC in the blood, but this indicator may not accurately reflect a driver's impairment level. While truck drivers may not be particularly impacted by testing methods in their own driving activities, they could be affected by sharing the roads with others using the drug.

A semi truck accident can occur for various reasons, including the use of prohibited drugs or alcohol. A truck driver's failure to comply with DOT regulations such as mandatory rest periods or abstinence from certain drugs could result in that person's liability for damages in the event of an accident. An individual injured in such a scenario might seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit filed with the assistance of a lawyer for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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