Drug Testing Science and Best Practices

Research into the workforce shortages faced by the transit industry has identified drug testing as a barrier to hiring and retaining transit workers, especially vehicle operators. This issue has become more acute over the last few years as fifteen additional states have legalized recreational cannabis since the beginning of 2018. In APTA’s survey of transit agencies in 2022 (APTA, 2022), 47 percent of transit agencies volunteered in open-response questions that applicants were discouraged or disqualified from applying for jobs because of drug and alcohol testing. In total, 23 states, three territories, and Washington, DC, have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. An additional 15 states have legalized medical use. This has created a conflict between how people use cannabis and the requirements for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and other transit agency requirements for drug testing. At issue is the fact that current tests for cannabis can detect the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) for weeks after use. There currently is no available test for THC impairment, though some are being developed (WMI Central, 2023). The various federal agencies involved in drug policy are currently reviewing the status of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance (Washington Post, 2023). This could potentially impact how cannabis is treated by the various U.S. Department of Transportation agencies. The objective of this study is to examine the landscape regarding transit workforce issues and cannabis use. The study should: (1) examine the current status of and potential future timeline for THC testing options; (2) examine the potential timeline for rescheduling cannabis at the federal level; (3) examine how rescheduling cannabis could impact drug testing in the transit industry; and (4) examine drug testing regimes in the transit industry in other countries.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $125000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-11, Task 48

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20231213
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01902060
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-11, Task 48
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Dec 13 2023 12:40PM