Congress shows signs of loosening up on the marijuana industry, the Department of Transportation is being more understanding when it comes to random drug testing, and a huge stride is announced in the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s all in the EBI Screening News Weekly Wrap.
New Funding Bill Helps Marijuana Industry
In case you have lost track, it is now legal to use medical marijuana in 33 states. It is available for recreational use in 11. For years, those against legalization would lean on the fact that the drug was still illegal at the federal level. Now, there may be signs of movement on that front as well.
No, Congress is not contemplating legalization across the board, but the new appropriations bill out of the House, has provisions that could make running a marijuana business a bit easier. The bill, which is now in Committee, includes provisions to protect marijuana businesses from federal interference and to expand cannabis research, but the most significant piece would allow these businesses access to simple banking.
Up until now, most banking institutions have refused to serve the marijuana industry because their federal insurance forbids it. The bill specifically states that banks cannot be penalized for doing business with marijuana, cannabis, or hemp-related businesses.
Many see this as a step towards full, federal legalization in the near future. Until then, employers ARE allowed to continue testing for the drug and to maintain a drug-free workplace.
More Leeway for Truck Fleets
No one likes the idea that someone could be behind the wheel of a big rig while under the influence, but according to Commercial Carrier Journal, several carriers are struggling to keep up with random testing requirements.
One reason for the difficulty is that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) increased the random testing requirement from 25% of drivers to 50% because they were seeing an increase in positive drug tests. That happened about three months before COVID-19 hit.
Now, COVID-19 is causing testing trouble for another reason. According to CCJ, the global health and economic crisis is causing many of the drug testing facilities that focus on DOT work to close. Some have just reduced hours; others have gone out of business completely.
In an effort to keep products moving across the country, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced it will attempt to use discretion when it comes to enforcing the 50% requirement. While the FMCSA is being lenient, it is up to the fleet to keep records. Carriers will need to document any challenges they have securing testing and will have to provide proof that testing sites were closed and that they made efforts to secure other sites.
If you are a DOT-regulated fleet struggling with drug testing, contact EBI for help.
Human Vaccine Testing Starting This Month
While this isn’t technically an “employment” related story, it’s one that will affect every single one of us and could determine what our workplaces look like for a long time.
Johnson & Johnson just announced it is speeding up the human trials of its COVID-19 vaccine. Initially, human trials were not expected to begin until September, but according to a press release, they will begin in the second half of July.
The trials will test the drug on 1045 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55, and others who are over 65. The testing will be done in the U.S. and in Belgium. This is one of five vaccines chosen to be part of the Administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” and one of ten currently involved in clinical trials. The goal is to have a working and accessible vaccine by the end of the year.