Drivers

Legal Pot in Colorado: How it's Affected Trucking

Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, shares his thoughts on how his state's legalization of marijuana has affected the trucking industry.

November 2015, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive

by Greg Fulton, CMCA

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Cannabis station, a medical marijuana dispensary, is located at the site of a former gas station in Denver. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr through Creative Commons license.
Cannabis station, a medical marijuana dispensary, is located at the site of a former gas station in Denver. Photo by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr through Creative Commons license.

It’s been almost two years since Colorado officially legalized marijuana. With other states considering similar measures, it's a good time to reflect on the Colorado experience and the impact of the law on the trucking industry.

Colorado voters passed a voter referendum in 2012 that authorized the legal sale of marijuana for recreational use, treating it in a manner similar to alcohol. The law took effect on January 1, 2014. Many proponents of the measure viewed enforcement of marijuana laws as a poor use of law enforcement and court resources. They also felt that passage would also eliminate the black market in this drug. Further, many saw that the taxation of this product could significantly increase the state's revenue, which could be used for primary education as well as drug prevention and rehabilitation programs.

Colorado’s experience has been a mixed one of both anticipated and unforeseen developments.

First, the legalization has been a boon for the state’s tax revenues, generating over $70 million in additional revenue annually. While much needed by the state and local governments, this amount falls short of original expectations. This may be somewhat explained by the fact that it is a cash-based industry because of legal limitations associated with the use of credit or debit cards. A pure cash business does not lend itself well to tracking or an audit trail, and some estimate that revenues for this industry may be significantly underreported.

Second, a key area of concern was the impact of legalization on crime and highway safety. Opponents of the measure had predicted that crime would increase based on the financial needs of users. Proponents felt that crime would drop, as the decriminalization would reduce drug trafficking and the crimes associated with it. The facts fail to support either premise. Crime levels are similar to what they were prior to the passage, without a significant increase or decrease in key categories.

In regard to traffic safety and accidents, the impact has been difficult to determine because of the lack of a good, quick, roadside test for marijuana as there is for alcohol. Recent reports do indicate that traffic fatalities involving a party who has marijuana in their system have risen, but overall Colorado’s accidents and fatalities are not significantly greater than prior to legalization.

Third, usage levels for marijuana appeared to increase across all age groups since the legalization. This has created a particular problem for the trucking industry and other employers in Colorado that either by law or choice require a drug-free workplace.

Legalization has made an already critical shortage of drivers worse. While motor carriers continue to tell their truck drivers that they are in violation of the law if there is even a trace of marijuana in their system, our companies continue to see high failure rates on drug tests.

In addition, other positions or jobs in the trucking industry where employees are tested have also seen a spike in failed tests. As an example, one company hiring dock workers specifically told all applicants before they applied that they would be drug tested prior to consideration. Even with this prior warning, 70% of the applicants still tested positive.

Unexpected consequences

While our industry anticipated the challenge associated with a higher failure rate for drug tests, we did not foresee some of the other challenges associated with legalization.

One major surprise was the space/storage requirements for the marijuana industry.

One major surprise was the space/storage requirements for the marijuana industry. The marijuana industry is much more than the local shop that sells the product. It requires an infrastructure of "grow houses" and warehouses to support the business. The magnitude of this demand and its impact on industries like trucking was clearly underestimated. The price of warehouse space as well as terminals (that have been converted) has risen dramatically, and there is now a shortage of space.

A recent article noted that between 2009 (the year when medical marijuana was approved) and 2014, marijuana businesses accounted for more than a third of all industrial space leased in the Denver metro area. As a result, prices have soared and industrial space is at a premium. This led to several trucking companies being forced out of properties that they had leased for many years due to higher rents or the repurposing of these sites by the marijuana industry.

The most recent example of “collateral damage” from the shortage of space due to legalization was the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. That group lost their previous space and was desperately looking to find warehouse space for storage and distribution for this Christmas season. In the past, companies donated space for this worthy cause, but the shortage of space brought on by legalization of marijuana changed things. Toys for Tots found itself for the first time ever making a plea to the public for space. Fortunately, a trucking executive member of CMCA helped to arrange for space after a significant search on our part.

Greg Fulton
Greg Fulton

We anticipate that the shortage of terminal/warehouse space may be alleviated as new industrial sites are built, as well as the possibility that legalization of marijuana in other states may reduce sales within Colorado.

We do not see an end in sight, however, on the greater challenge that legalization has created in finding drivers, technicians, and others for our industry who must be drug free to work in it.

Comments

  1. 1. Greg Owen [ November 18, 2015 @ 02:49PM ]

    GREG: WE DISCUSSED THIS ISSUE WHILE IN PHILADELPHIA AND WAS SHOCKED BY THE FACTS YOU'VE STATED. HERE'S AND INTERESTING NOTE AND ADDITION. WHEN I STARTED TRIMODAL IN 1982 WE DRUG TESTED ALL EMPLOYEES. OUR OPERATIONS WERE LITERALLY DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES IN THE RAIL FREIGHT TERMINAL AREA OF L.A. THE POSITIVE TESTING OF DOCKWORKERS WAS 87% OF ALL POTENTIAL NEW HIRES AND THE DRUGS WERE EVERYTHING BUT MARIJUANA.. WE WERE LOOKING AT $200-400. PER WEEK DRUG ISSUES.. THE GOOD NEWS WAS WE WENT 15 YEARS BEFORE HAVING A POTENTIAL NEW HIRE TRUCK DRIVER TESTED POSITIVE.
    THE LATEST ISSUE THAT HAS ADDED TO OUR DRIVER SHORTAGE PROBLEMS IS DRIVERS GETTING ON AND THE FILING WORKERS COMPENSATION CLAIMS WHICH IS NEAR 100% OF WOULD BE APPLICANTS.

  2. 2. Justin [ November 18, 2015 @ 05:16PM ]

    We have legal ,recreational alcohol users.This has lead to alcohol abuse and drunk driving and all of the established,proven bad stuff that goes with it.
    Now the legalization for medicinal and recreational use of pot is rapidly spreading across the country.Next is the legal abuse of pot and all of the same bad stuff that has been around when pot use was illegal.
    Don't come looking to work for me!

  3. 3. Wayne Schooling [ November 25, 2015 @ 09:46AM ]

    This is no surprise to us at NTA. About 10 years ago, we brought on a major carrier in So Cal who just opened a terminal in CO. This carrier had more positives in CO than ALL the rest of our client carriers.

    Now I see where the tech industry has come out with an "app" to see just how much under the influence with marijuana a person is.

    The government should put their foot down and make up their mind on marijuana. First, they paid farmers to grow it back in the day, then they ban it, next they have a certain college grow it for studies, now they let the states do what they want. If this isn't sending mixed signals I don't know what is.

  4. 4. CT [ November 30, 2015 @ 05:53AM ]

    It's almost comedic to watch how the Feds selectively choose to prosecute people for religious convictions and freedoms, but choose to ignore other laws which fit their narrative and agendas.
    Whatever happened to the simple old established idea that the rule of law was exactly just that; the rule of law.
    If you didn't like a law, then you campaigned for support to change a law, but not ignore as this administration does time and time again....

  5. 5. kensnead [ December 03, 2015 @ 10:41AM ]

    The comments of this story miss the major points of legalization. And the rule of law our forefathers created, IS the Last word, blah blah, I don't think the Gov. Cares About smoke The Tax is what they need or want. Is the fed.gov. getting any from these states? idk. How has legalization affected the Continuing driver shortage? And There is No comparison, to alcohol and cannibas...Alcohol is unacceptable. in my view. And the very, most dangerous.

  6. 6. Geno [ December 18, 2015 @ 01:07AM ]

    I use to smoke pot when I was in high school and college but I never inhaled many years ago. Iv been driving truck for ten years now and I don't participitate in that recreation since my early youth years , i had finally grew up and it wasn't fun or enjoyable for me any more. I do support the legalization for recreation of it as it should be a individuals choice not the governments . In today's society you will have many jobs that will not support or tolerate the use of drugs as they should be and trucking being one of them , could you imagine a million plus high truck drivers I can't and as far as drivers testing positive for drugs is first they didn't value there job and money talks was thee job pay good enough that they would value it more, could it of been a stepping stone for some I don't know but I believe what you do on your time is your business and as I don't party I do respect the rights of drivers who do want to party on there time home but I don't condone it while out on the road. I do see drug testing as a infringement on ones privacy and with the way government controls almost every thing we do I did agree with the way we are loosing our liberties daily, where does it stop. I commend Colorado for stepping out side of the box and as I have read they only saw a increase of 70 million well 70 million is no chump change make good use of it it is extra and a lot of money. I would like to see some of that money use for vets and homeless people not drug programs necessarily . Well that's all the time I have for this subject and would like to see other states follow the same idea of legalization.

  7. 7. midnight toker [ May 28, 2016 @ 12:57AM ]

    i dont drive over the road much. so im not too familiar with log books....but dont you have to sleep 8 hours or something between shifts..... an doesnt pot and its devilish side effects only last 8hours ? seems like a perfect sleep routine to me

  8. 8. William [ August 06, 2016 @ 01:10AM ]

    NAFTA $1 AD CLINTON GOLDMAN SACHS To look report go to (public Integrity the trading game ) download go to page 105,23,24 see how many friends of Bill and Hillary Clinton got rich off Mexican Government

  9. 9. William [ September 01, 2016 @ 12:44PM ]

    NAFTA AD$1 CLINTON Goldman Sachs truckers sold out. Mexican Government took out $1 an hour ad . To look up report $1 an hour ad ad go to ( public Integrity the trading game )download go to page 110,111, 23, 24 See how many friends of Hillary and Bill Clinton's got rich off the Mexican Government.

  10. 10. William [ September 28, 2016 @ 04:12PM ]

    NAFTA AD $1 an hour CLINTON Goldman Sachs. Mexican Government took out a $1 an hour ad to get U.S. companies to move to Mexico. See how many friends of Bill and Hillary Clinton's got rich off the Mexican. Download go to page 110,111,23,24 maybe truckers should pass out page 110,111,23,24 to voters.

    http://cloudfront-files-1.publicintegrity.org/legacy_projects/pdf_reports/THETRADINGGAME.pdf

  11. 11. William [ September 28, 2016 @ 06:11PM ]

    NAFTA AD CLINTON Goldman Sachs truckers sold out $1 an hour ad to see download go to page 110,111,23,24 http://cloudfront-files-1.publicintegrity.org/legacy_projects/pdf_reports/THETRADINGGAME.pdf

 

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