Trucking talk covers growing pot industry

HH file photo. Semi-trucks park at the Pilot Station in Stanfield.

The nation’s changing attitude on marijuana poses a quandary for the trucking industry. The Oregon Trucking Association is trying to help transportation companies deal with that change.

Waylon Buchan is the director of government affairs for the Oregon Trucking Association. He addressed a couple dozen trucking company human resource directors, supervisors and the like on marijuana policy during the association’s symposium last week at Wildhorse Resort & Casino near Pendleton. Legal marijuana is big business, he said, with Oregon projecting more than $22 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales in 2019.

“When this gets to the $100 million point, that’s real money,” he said.

That economic green means government is not stepping in to roll back the progress on pot. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was adamantly opposed to marijuana, Buchan said, but made few moves to step on what states did with legalizing the substance. And state after state is moving in that direction.

According to New Frontier Data, which tracks the cannabis industry, only Idaho, South Dakota and Kansas will not offer some kind of legal marijuana market within the next decade, and the legal marijuana industry by 2025 looks to employ more than 1 million people.

All of that is going to affect trucking and transportation, Buchan said, and the industry abides by U.S. Department of Transportation and federal laws, which prohibits marijuana. Even a doctor’s note allowing a truck driver to use pot, he said, will not supersede the prohibition, and case law has already decided that issue.

But that does not mean companies have an easy out to create anti-marijuana policy.

“We already have a critical driver shortage,” Buchan said, along with mechanics and related positions. Thus a strict anti-marijuana policy could send would-be employees to seek another job.

Still, he said, companies should follow what the federal transportation department mandates when it comes to drivers, and companies must be consistent with enforcing their own marijuana policies. He also let the crowd know more marijuana changes could be on the horizon.

The next session of Congress is looking at 41 bills dealing with marijuana — 27 in the House and 14 in the Senate.

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