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No marijuana for SF taxi drivers under new rule

By Oscar Pascual |

San Francisco’s taxi drivers may soon have to choose between quitting cannabis or quitting their jobs.

The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates cab travel in the city as well as operating Muni, is scheduled to vote on a new drug testing policy for cab drivers in October, reports the San Francisco Examiner.

Under the new rule, cab drivers as well as Muni bus drivers would have to undergo pre-employment drug screening. Anyone who test positive for one of 40 substances on a list created by the federal government would be barring from driving.

Unfortunately, the proposal’s draft has no mention of an exception for law-abiding medical marijuana patients, advocates have pointed out.

“It discriminates stupidly against both medical and casual off-the-job users,” said Dale Gieringer, director of the California NORML chapter, to the Examiner. “If the SFMTA considers drug testing cabbies without an exemption for medical users, he said, “We’re going to go and protest that. There will be a turnout.”

When asked why there was no exception to the rule, the SFMTA had a simple answer.

“The SFMTA has no way of knowing which operator possesses a medical marijuana card,” agency spokesman Robert Lyles told the Examiner.

The draft proposal calls for annual drug testing when drivers renew their permits, as well as mandatory drug and alcohol testing when involved in a traffic collision.

The SFMTA’s Taxi and Accessible Services division has already met with the Energetix Corporation, which oversees several drug testing services in New York, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

The strict proposal has many concerned that the new rules could potentially lose hundreds of drivers to alternative car services.

“This may cause drivers to go to Uber or Lyft,” Carl Macmurdo, president of the Medallion Holders Association, told the Examiner.

Despite the controversy stemming from the proposal, the SFMTA board’s president, Tom Nolan, told the Examiner that he was unaware of the proposal and its anti-cannabis language. Nolan is especially concerned due to the inaccurate nature of testing for marijuana, which can be found in the human system as far as a month after consumption.

“If someone is really high, you shouldn’t be driving of course,” Nolan said to the Examiner. “But if you did some over the weekend, smoked some dope, I don’t know.”

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