DMV changes medical marijuana policy

Medical marijuana advocates are declaring victory now that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has amended its policies to say that “use of medicinal marijuana approved by a physician should be handled in the same manner as any other prescription medication which may affect safe driving,” but doesn’t by itself constitute grounds for withdrawal of a driver’s license.

Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access sued the DMV last November on behalf of Rose Johnson, 53, of Atwater, whose driver’s license was revoked because of her status as a medical-marijuana patient despite a clean 37-year driving record. The DMV had said her license wasn’t renewed “because of…[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug,” thereby rendering her unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. The DMV reinstated her license in January.

“The new DMV policy is a significant departure from how the agency approached medical marijuana in the past,” ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said in a statement issued today. “Drivers will no longer have their licenses suspended or revoked simply because of their status as medical marijuana patients.”

ASA said DMV had been suspending or revoking medical marijuana patients’ driver’s licenses in at least eight counties, including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma, calling these drivers drug abusers without presenting evidence to support the claim.”This DMV policy change represents a victory for patients, which puts us closer to full implementation of California’s medical marijuana law,” Elford said today.

The new guidelines say a DMV hearing officer “should inquire as to the frequency of use, time of use, and the relationship to driving as they would with the use of other prescribed medications” when dealing with medical marijuana use. DMV issued the revised policy last month and will advise its Driver Safety workers of the change in a training session tomorrow, according to ASA.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Freak of the Far Right

    It won’t be long and we will all be be getting stoned. Can you imagine toking down with your favorite conservative!! Bong hits at political rallies!! Yeah Baby!!

  • david

    awesome! i could not get my class B 15-passenger license/endorsement last year partly because of this. i’m glad things have changed.

  • logan9

    Honestly, what are we waiting for? Legalize cannabis already!

  • eic

    David’s right…there is nothing that says this revision doesn’t apply to Commercial driver’s licenses.

    Also, mj isnt a prescribed drug. Its recommended.

    Feds ability to endanger job of s-s worker with Recommendation who fails s-s drug test due to state-legal mj absorbtion seems curtailed. The medical disqualifying ability of the USDOT has been hogtied due to the fact the CA doctor who signed the thing is state regulated.

  • Karen Barstow

    The daily use of medical marijuana (other than in those dying from a disease) by people driving on our roads is frightening enough–I am an employer of truck drivers, heavy equipment operators. Accident investigation has proven that mj users are more prone to injury and equip accidents–I can’t believe that California would even consider this as an acceptible excuse to change the law. People who use mj daily THINK that they think & function more clearly–I can give you hundreds of examples which contradict that. This is a tragic state of affairs for those of us in business.

  • JK

    Karen is right.

    My wife works at a trucking company in Hayward and has seen exactly the same results that Karen mentions: users have much higher accident rates with their rigs. It’s gotten so bad that customer specifically ask for different drivers to ensure their loads aren’t crashed.

    I can’t believe the state would want to change this. This seems to seriously undermine safety on the road and in the workplace.

  • Eldon J. Brown

    To — Karen Barstow Says:
    May 22nd, 2009 at 7:26 am

    ******* I am a commercial truck driver (Class A TN endorsements) who is sick and tired of a working persons ability to earn a living being taken by the (NAZI) state. When they passed the Patriot Act, they took my Hazardous Materials endorsements which crippled me. Now at least I don’t have to worry about keeping the few jobs I can get driving just because I get a cannabis card. This country is so stupid for attacking it’s own citizens, crippling us with idiotic laws, and then wondering why the rest of the world is more prosperous & healthier than us. When are we going to realize the enemy is not without, it is within and has the form of politicians, big business and religious nutjobs.

    You of all people, Karen Barstow, should know this since your industry (the backbone of our economy) is under attack. WAKE UP!!

  • I am a cdl driver and I have looked in to med mm. this is a step in the right direction I wuold say, however
    federal law still superseeds state law and a cdl driver
    is not alowed to drive with weed in thier systym.

  • Jace

    I don’t think we should be able to be under the influence while driving
    Or operating heavy equipment but if I wanna smoke when I go home or on the
    Weekend I should be able to.

  • eric

    what does this mean for class a drivers in california im confused … is this for all classes or just class c ….. it does not outline a class …. i know you cant smoke and drive but what about off hrs … what about the d.o.t? please answer

  • Bob Wilson

    To the truck company owners… you’re confusing the commercial driver’s license issue with the personal license issue.

    The DMV was revoking licenses simply because people had medical marijuana cards listed in their medical records.

    You still can’t drive commercially with drugs in your system, and that includes certain pain killers many of your drivers may be allowed to use off-hours.

    Are you saying there are truck drivers on your staff that are smoking up in your trucks? If that’s what you’re claiming, I don’t believe you’re an actual owner of a trucking company.

  • Michael R

    Look you stupid employers MEDICAL MARIJUANA should be treated as alcohol and perscribed drugs THERE ARE TEST OUT THERE (LEVELS) to see if your driver has smoked while on the job WHO SAID BLAZZING DOWN THE ROAD I rather hire a Marijuana user THEN A PILL POPper OR A FULL BLOWN ALCOHOLIC quit hatting on this AND WAKE UP ITS HERE

  • I think MJ needs to be used just as alcohol is Not on the JOB and ONLY off the Job I know its not safe on the job and dont use it on the Job but OFF the job I use it at night for Chronic Pain to sleep, from a Broken Back in 2002 and had a unsuccessful Back Fusion which they gave me Dozens a Codeine and Nerve Pills and antidepressants that barley worked for me to dim my Chronic Pain,Now my Liver is not working right cause of all these medicines and I have stopped all and have chosen only one safe drug MJ,in which does away all the Pain and anxiety and depression that I use to have,and I only use MJ at night time to sleep and relieve my systems and it works without Killing my Liver,Why cant the Government see that it helps injured people like me and is a perfect cure of medicine as long as they dont use it on the job,and as far as all you Phonies who just want to get High you should be ashamed of yourselves cause people like that are taking away from people Like me who really needs it y’all are the Lowest people I know on Earth taking away from the Crippled and Cancer Patients who really need it. use it at home Not on the Job.11/2010

  • IZY

    I am a C.D.L holder and i love to medicate when i get home. I have bad back pains and a by polar aditude.I control this problem during the day with my own strong will butt a the end of the day im like a shampaine bottle redy to burst.that is why i medicate to bring the days frustrations to a stop roll them up and smoke them and continue to go about my day calmly.blaze safley and responsebly . P.N my spelling sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Elwood

    Isn’t it nice that nobody smokes that **** to get high any more?

    It’s all medicine now!

    Uh, huh. Uh, huh. OK!

  • James Reihault

    Folks I am a safety man for a trucking co and I had a driver that was always late and for 3 months straght and I have asked him why and he finally got the answer he said he was in pain and smoke dope to control the pain in his back so he was late so I asked him to do a drug test and he refused so we fired him for this and he has filed a 4.7 million dollar law suit against us and we have been fighting this for about year and yesterday we lost in court and this will put about 300 drivers out of work so congrats on your dope law I think we should go out and get high and maybe drive to the government office and run some of these sob over and say hey you can not do anything because I have a card that says I can do it so thank you Washington for destroying are company

  • Bryan Fox Man

    Mrs. Barstow Has My Respect. Loaded Flat Deck 60mph 10hr shift Long Haul & Backing into Truck Stop or dock Loaded /impaired? Employers random test Employer or at Weigh Scale Semi is Parked, CDL suspended till dry out.

    Laws should be simple: Employee declare MJ License to employer. CDL or License has MJ Class Notation. Get Legally Tested is your Acceptable Level Stated on Yer “Get out of Jail Free MJ Card”. Over Your Personal Level, “Do Not Pass Go” Tooo Dalooo, Feds Dangle Rubber glove in yer Face.