How Marijuana Legalization Impacts CDL Recruiting

In June 2023, the American Transportation Research Institute released its “Impact of Marijuana Legalization on the Trucking Industry” report.

This 50+ page report dives deep into how the transportation industry is impacted by marijuana becoming increasingly legal nationwide. The ATRI analyzed decriminalization trends, highway safety, workforce implications, carrier and driver surveys, and the ATRI drew their conclusions.

Instead of summarizing the entire ATRI report, I want to focus on how marijuana legalization impacts CDL recruiting.

  • Marijuana Trends
  • Truck Driver Safety and Marijuana Legalization
  • CDL Workforce Implications
  • How Truckers Feel About the Impact of Marijuana
  • Conclusions

Marijuana Trends

Despite being classified as a Schedule I Drug by the Federal Government, 23 states have legalized recreational marijuana. As a result of this mass legalization, 41.4% of truck drivers live in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

Across the country, 59% of people support legalizing recreational marijuana. Plus, the average state with legal weed brought in $3.7 billion in additional tax revenue in 2021.

What does this mean?

Marijuana will continue to become more and more legal nationwide. The majority of people support legalization, and states will want to increase their tax revenues.

If you live in a state where marijuana is illegal, do not expect that to remain the case for long.

Close-up of cannabis herb buds and gavel as symbol of legalization of marijuana. Legal use of hemp in medicine, smoke for health. Cbd, herb, weed concept

Truck Driver Safety and Marijuana Legalization

Keeping your drivers safe increases your retention rate and improves your recruiting efforts. Fleets that have a reputation for prioritizing safety attract top-performing drivers.

If you are a fleet that takes pride in its safety, how concerned do you need to be with marijuana legalization impacting highway safety?

We know that the mind-altering chemical in marijuana, THC, negatively affects driving performance. That said, procedures must be in place to prevent your employees from driving while under the influence of marijuana.

But, what about the other drivers on the road? If more people are consuming weed, won’t the number of impaired drivers increase highway risks?

The answer to those questions is not simple. Multiple studies have looked at fatal crashes and marijuana legalization, and in 2021 a study found a 4.1% increase in fatal crashes after marijuana legalization.


The researchers who conducted this survey also found that marijuana caused drivers to slow down and increase following distance. So, while a high driver is not as skilled, they are also more cautious.

This combination led researchers to believe that crashes will increase, but the severity of crashes will be reduced.

Fortunately, marijuana legalization does not initially appear to increase the chances of one of your drivers being in a fatal accident.

Yet, the odds of a non-fatal accident are increased. Make sure to have solid procedures for when an accident does occur to protect and take care of your drivers.

CDL Workforce Implications

Because marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, the federal government forces carriers to abide by a zero-tolerance policy. Even if a driver has a medical card from a licensed physician, the driver is not allowed to consume marijuana.

The Department of Transportation Public Drug and Alcohol Testing Database shows that in 2021 75.4% of all positive pre-employment drug tests were because of marijuana consumption. That number is from 70.6% of positive tests caused by marijuana consumption in 2012.


The positive pre-employment test rate in 2012 was 1.23%, and in 2021 the positive test rate was 1.24%.

So, drivers are not necessarily failing more pre-employment drug tests, but the drivers that do fail are using marijuana at a higher rate.

Also, surveys show that 43.7% of carriers will not hire any candidates with past positive marijuana tests. If your company is comfortable with it, and you are in a position to do so, hiring drivers with past positive tests may increase your driver pool compared to your competition.

How Truckers Feel About the Impact of Marijuana

The majority of truck drivers support the legalization of recreational marijuana. 66.5% of the drivers who answered the ATRI survey said marijuana should be legalized nationally.

In addition to supporting the legalization of marijuana, 65% of drivers think that marijuana impairment testing should replace marijuana use testing. Drivers think that using marijuana off-hours should be treated similarly to alcohol consumption.

A big reason why drivers support marijuana legalization is that the majority of them feel highway safety has not been impacted by legalized marijuana use.


Marijuana legalization puts truck driver recruiters between a rock and a hard place. The federal government forces carriers to take a zero-tolerance policy on marijuana consumption.


CDL drivers support marijuana legalization and want to see the industry lighten the regulations. Marijuana is not an issue where carriers can work with drivers to find a middle ground.

Unfortunately, this can cause some drivers to leave the profession for a career that is marijuana friendly.

By discussing marijuana with your drivers, having rock-solid accident procedures, and planning to lose drivers due to marijuana-related issues, your driver recruiting team can continue to have success as legalization spreads.

Are you looking for help with your truck driver recruiting? Fill out the form below to speak with a Meramec Solutions recruiting specialist today!

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