Cannabis Prohibition Continues to Take its Toll on American Recovery
These professions are having a tough time keeping their positions filled.
In case you haven’t heard, The Great Resignation is upon us. The December Jobs Report declared an extremely low 3.9% unemployment rate ‑ dipping below 4% for the first time since the pandemic began. For even as the economy picks up after the Omnicron surge, some professions, such as truck drivers and postal workers, still struggle to fill their ranks. Any number of reasons may exist for this, from long COVID to early retirements to the relatively inflexible hours of both professions. However, one suggestion also exists and persists – the stubborn refusal of both professions to allow their employees to consume cannabis in their off-hours. Considering all the other hassles that come with these professions, not to mention the increasing amount of states where it’s already legal, and it leads to a perfect storm that have set both commentators on Capitol Hill and Wells Fargo to comment upon it this month.
This happens amidst a sea change in corporate and small business policy surrounding cannabis in the workforce, culminated with Amazon’s seismic policy shift towards cannabis use in 2021. That summer, Apple also quietly announced that its app stores would carry apps which facilitated the sale and delivery of cannabis in legal states. And while the recommendations may for now fall on deaf ears, they provide further justification and pressure to synchronize hiring practices to suit the policies of 38 medical states and 18 legal ones.
Even as he prepares to retire from public office, Rep. Ed Perlmutter continues to preside over banking reform for the cannabis industry, as the SAFE Act has passed through the House of Representatives for the sixth time (However, it probably won’t get far, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to introduce his long-awaited Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act this coming April.) In the meantime, Perlmutter made a brief advocacy for cannabis-consuming postal worker applicants. During a House Rules Committee meeting, Perlmutter suggested that if the federal government wanted to fill the ranks of an understaffed US Postal Service, it could do well to relax its restrictions on cannabis.
For now, it appears unlikely that the federal government will follow through on Perlmutter’s suggestions, well-founded as they may be. The Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard bar its members from even using CBD, and while the FBI has relaxed its hiring standards – they only have to refrain from using cannabis one year before being hired, instead of three – they are still disqualified if they use it more than 24 times after the age of 18, which would probably exclude most of the people reading this article. And five staffers were famously dismissed from the White House after admitting to cannabis use in legal states.
THE TRUCK DRIVERS
The nation’s truck drivers face stiffer penalties for cannabis use. Considering the heavy payloads and long hours they carry, trucking companies and their insurers are predictably worried abound on-the-job inebriation, so testing positive carries severe penalties. The regulatory body Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration bans any drivers that test dirty under an immediate ban. They’re also placed on a national database so they can’t be hired elsewhere in the country.
About 81,000 drivers have been removed from work through this process, and reinstatement can be lengthy. This, alongside the rapidly aging workforce and the toil behind the work, have contributed to a deficit in drivers. Chief of Equity Strategy Chris Harvey remarked in an industry conference that while the policies may have cut back on cannabis use in the workforce, it also has severely handicapped the industry’s ability to rebound from the pandemic. He also notes that their absence could "continue to push that price even higher," meaning higher prices at shelves for items, which could create even more strains with anticipated rising energy costs due to tensions between the Ukraine, Russia and NATO.
Granted, we may still be a long way from determining accurate cannabis consumption on the road. But it certainly shows that with cannabis, something has got to give, and considering the strains cannabis prohibition is putting on US economic recovery, it may have to give sooner rather than later.