Cannabis testing and its effects on Amtrak hiring

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There have been a number of posts recently where comments were made about how hair follicle testing for cannabis use has possibly disqualified people from applying to Amtrak positions. Rather than commenting on those threads and taking the thread off topic, I thought a separate discussion might be in order.

What I am wondering is: how much do we know about the lingering effects of cannabis use on an individual's performance at a job such as operating a train? With alcohol use, we have thousands of years of experience with its effects. Legal use of cannabis is still a fairly recent phenomenon. It seems use of it while on duty is definitely a no-no. We have the example of the Chase MD crash where it was determined to be a factor in the Conrail crew operating their train into the path of the Amtrak Colonial. Is there some time after use has ceased that the individual may still be impaired? Because of this crash it is understandable why we might have such stringent standards in the transportation sector. But are we possibly disqualifying individuals e.g. due to past use or infrequent use with plenty of time for it to exit their system before their work day.

I have no personal experience with use although have been around others including family members that used it in the past. I have certainly had experience in my youth with overindulgence of alcohol and its lingering effects 😵‍💫

I realize this topic might be controversial and moderators feel free to delete it or move it to the lounge.
 

Ryan

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We almost certainly are. The problem comes down to the fact that there is a correlation between BAC and level of impairment that doesn't exist for THC. This link has tons of entertaining reading on the topic:

The Report said:
While ethyl alcohol is readily soluble in water, and hence blood, THC is fat soluble. This means that once ingested, THC is stored in fatty tissues in the body and can be released back into the blood sometimes long after ingestion. Some studies have detected THC in the blood at 30 days post ingestion (Heustis, 2007). Thus, while THC can be detected in the blood long after ingestion, the acute psychoactive effects of marijuana ingestion last for mere hours, not days or weeks.
 

zephyr17

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Isn't the entire transportation industry running into this problem?
Do others in the transportation industry use follicle testing or urine tests? You will show clear with 30-60 days of abstention on a pee test. A follicle test will show positive for months after last use.

My understanding is that testing is required, but either test can be used.
 
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Willbridge

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My observations years ago in the Army were that heavy users would disqualify themselves in promotion exams, re-enlistment processes. and were avoided by others because they couldn't think logically. Since then, that's been linked to previous juvenile use. So, I would expect that the hiring process should be set up to eliminate liabilities.

As there hasn't been proof that intermittent or experimental use contributes to accidents, urine tests should be the standard.
 
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Frankly, I think it should be issued to passengers (perhaps not in a smokeable format, though).

Might make the occasionally abysmal service and delays more bearable.

"Oh, we're gonna be sixteen hours late and the AC is broken? Cool, man..... gimme a can of that Amstew, your biggest spoon, and don't give it another thought"
 

cirdan

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My observations years ago in the Army were that heavy users would disqualify themselves in promotion exams, re-enlistment processes. and were avoided by others because they couldn't think logically. Since then, that's been linked to previous juvenile use. So, I would expect that the hiring process should be set up to eliminate liabilities.

As there hasn't been proof that intermittent or experimental use contributes to accidents, urine tests should be the standard.
I have also heard that cannabis use can accelerate the development of psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and various phobias. Probably individuals most at risk are those already genetically inclined to such conditions, so it would not be accurate to say cannabis is the cause of the condition, but it can magnify it. The effects are often long term and persist long after consumption has ceased (possibly people who once consumed regularly and then ceased may actually be more at risk than those who still consume). The symptoms can sometimes be triggered by stressful situations. Clearly people in positions of responsibility such as train engineers and conductors need to be able to keep their cool in stressful situations and should not themselves be at risk of becoming a liability.
 

Barb Stout

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Anecdote only. I used to hang out with a group of people who were longtime users of marijuana. All of them had very short attention spans. None of them could focus on anything for very long. It was extremely unsatisfying trying to have a conversation with them. But then the attention and focus deficit is prevalent with a lot of people.
 
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Just-Thinking-51

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Do others in the transportation industry use follicle testing or urine tests? You will show clear with 30-60 days of abstention on a pee test. A follicle test will show positive for months after last use.

My understanding is that testing is required, but either test can be used.
Yes other transportation industry use follicle testing before they hire you. However the follicle test does not meet the federal standards and you have to test the urine also. So a trucking company can test the follicle before hiring you, but to meet the fitness requirements a clean urine test is required.

If you want to enjoy your dope, your not working in the transportation business. Simple choice.

I have enough aggressive coworkers, don’t need them flying high too.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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I have apply a few times over the years to Amtrak. Never got a interview, only rejected e-mails. Pretty sure a computer scans your application and if your not using just the right terms, you rejected.

I very much doubt a employee’s drug use history is preventing Amtrak from staffing there shops and trains.
 
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Frankly, I think it should be issued to passengers (perhaps not in a smokeable format, though).

Might make the occasionally abysmal service and delays more bearable.

"Oh, we're gonna be sixteen hours late and the AC is broken? Cool, man..... gimme a can of that Amstew, your biggest spoon, and don't give it another thought"
I'm not sure if this is the time to recount the experience of a person I know who was in Boston a month ago and had a leftover gummy (a THC-infused candy, perfectly legal in Boston) that he had to get rid of before he caught the Acela back to a state where the gummy would be very illegal. So he ate it about an hour before the train left. The effects hit him while he was in the Metropolitan Lounge waiting for boarding, and while he said it was not a bad feeling, he was tinged with a little fear that he would start giggling uncontrollably and roll around on the floor making a scene. He claims he didn't do that, but was very anxious to board the train, and felt much better when he was settled into his seat. He wasn't sure that being high improved the ride, as it gets pretty bumpy when the train hits 150 mph, which it did while he was high, and every time the train lurched he thought they were going airborne. He says he was totally sober by the time the train got to New Haven, and at no point of the experience was he really out of control or anything. His final judgement: Weed doesn't make the ride any better, but if it were legal like alcohol and fear of being caught were removed, the experience might be enjoyable. He does admit that other sober passengers might not appreciate sitting in a coach full of stoners giggling their heads off.
 

alpha3

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Hmmm. When I was very young (late teens, early 20's) I smoked weed a fair amount. I don't recall experiencing anything like the anxiety some do, quite the opposite. No giggles, either. I had a custom van at the time, and did a lot of driving around and camping; never had trouble driving, didn't pick fights, it just made me kind of mellow. I know young guys are always hungry, but I DO REMEMBER - is that weed made me very,very hungry. I could clean out my aunt's entire refrigerator and want more! And the weird combinations...I remember loving ice cream and meatloaf. ICK. But, yes.
 

SteveSFL

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If Congress decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, regulators and employers will have to decide if it is more dangerous for transportation workers to use THC during their off hours and be trusted to come to work sober than it is for them to use alcohol during their off hours.
 

SteveSFL

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I know young guys are always hungry, but I DO REMEMBER - is that weed made me very,very hungry. I could clean out my aunt's entire refrigerator and want more! And the weird combinations...I remember loving ice cream and meatloaf. ICK. But, yes.
I had tried MJ a couple of times in my early years but then entered a career where I was subjected to drug testing so went for several decades without touching it.

The first thing I did after retirement was take a trip to DC to legally procure some gummies (which I’d never tried before). I took Amtrak home because I knew I was less likely to get caught with my contraband, but I didn’t consume anything until I was around friends because I wasn’t sure how it would affect me.

I now have a permit for Medical MJ and my delivery method of choice is tincture drops which are a little more controllable than gummies.

The biggest effect for me is the hunger. I’m constantly making trips to the kitchen and agree about the strange combinations. I usually don’t mix together but will eat cereal, followed by cookie dough, then cheese, then leftovers, and then chocolate. I can’t understand how the “stoners” that I knew of in high school were always so skinny.

I am now very careful to avoid any situation where I would have to drive while under the influence of THC. Since the gummies take about 30 minutes to kick in, I once ate a small one and went to the nearby Sam’s club to pick up a prescription for my dog, knowing that I’d be home before it hit me. Needless to say there was a delay at the pharmacy and I was a little spacey on the drive home. Yes, I know I should have called someone and no, I won’t do that again!
 

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I had a custom van at the time, and did a lot of driving around and camping; never had trouble driving, didn't pick fights, it just made me kind of mellow.
Intoxication clouds your judgement and dulls your memory, so an intoxicated person is unlikely to accurately assess their own impairment or remember everything. Many drunk drivers believe they drive safely while intoxicated and each time they make it home their self-evaluation improves.

If Congress decriminalizes marijuana at the federal level, regulators and employers will have to decide if it is more dangerous for transportation workers to use THC during their off hours and be trusted to come to work sober than it is for them to use alcohol during their off hours.
Difficulty in measuring impairment is likely to be an ongoing concern. I thought cannabis was less harmful but if users are unwilling to give it up for a good career that sounds a lot like alcoholism.
 
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UserNameRequired

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Hmmm. When I was very young (late teens, early 20's) I smoked weed a fair amount. I don't recall experiencing anything like the anxiety some do, quite the opposite. No giggles, either. I had a custom van at the time, and did a lot of driving around and camping; never had trouble driving, didn't pick fights, it just made me kind of mellow. I know young guys are always hungry, but I DO REMEMBER - is that weed made me very,very hungry. I could clean out my aunt's entire refrigerator and want more! And the weird combinations...I remember loving ice cream and meatloaf. ICK. But, yes.
Was it a VW van? 😀1656859237010.jpeg
 
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I'm not sure if this is the time to recount the experience of a person I know who was in Boston a month ago and had a leftover gummy (a THC-infused candy, perfectly legal in Boston) that he had to get rid of before he caught the Acela back to a state where the gummy would be very illegal. So he ate it about an hour before the train left. The effects hit him while he was in the Metropolitan Lounge waiting for boarding, and while he said it was not a bad feeling, he was tinged with a little fear that he would start giggling uncontrollably and roll around on the floor making a scene. He claims he didn't do that, but was very anxious to board the train, and felt much better when he was settled into his seat. He wasn't sure that being high improved the ride, as it gets pretty bumpy when the train hits 150 mph, which it did while he was high, and every time the train lurched he thought they were going airborne. He says he was totally sober by the time the train got to New Haven, and at no point of the experience was he really out of control or anything. His final judgement: Weed doesn't make the ride any better, but if it were legal like alcohol and fear of being caught were removed, the experience might be enjoyable. He does admit that other sober passengers might not appreciate sitting in a coach full of stoners giggling their heads off.
Uh, just how well do you know this person😏
 

Just me

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One day at work, one of the more dependable hard working guys came in totally stoned. We worked around machinery and he was sent home, never to return again.

I wonder what medical personnel do after they ingest gummies? If it's like one of my friend's nurses, he just went into work anyway. A little frightening.

Frankly, I don't care what anybody does in the way of "recreation"; just stay the heck away from me while you're on it. JMHO.
 

SteveSFL

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Intoxication clouds your judgement and dulls your memory, so an intoxicated person is unlikely to accurately assess their own impairment or remember everything. Many drunk drivers believe they drive safely while intoxicated and each time they make it home their self-evaluation improves.


Difficulty in measuring impairment is likely to be an ongoing concern. I thought cannabis was less harmful but if users are unwilling to give it up for a good career that sounds a lot like alcoholism.
I think the issue is whether people can control when they use their choice of intoxicant. Would you be ok with the government dictating that people in transportation jobs not be allowed to use alcohol at all?
 
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I think the issue is whether people can control when they use their choice of intoxicant. Would you be ok with the government dictating that people in transportation jobs not be allowed to use alcohol at all?
I tend to agree with this, but there is an issue that there is not yet any reliable easy-to-use field sobriety test for cannabis intoxication. I believe that researchers are working on it, but it's not there yet. At the current time, I think the best compromise is the urine test, in which the THC is not detected after 0.5 - 5 days, thus it only detects recent drug use. This would mean that someone subject to drug testing at work could only use the stuff during the early days of any extended vacations. The hair follicle test is ridiculous, as it detects THC months after the last use.

Another issue with the more sensitive tests is that they may detect "environmental contamination," not actual drug use. For example, say you walk down the streets of Manhattan, breathing in the secondhand weed smoke, a hair test might come up positive. Test labs understand this, but they have to be arbitrary about where they set their "cut-off" limits that distinguish between a pasitive and negative test.
 

cirdan

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I think the issue is whether people can control when they use their choice of intoxicant. Would you be ok with the government dictating that people in transportation jobs not be allowed to use alcohol at all?

AFAIK the government still upholds and defends unpopular and controversial mandates for covid vaccines for transportation workers despite (at this point) any additional protection offered by the vaccine being marginal at best, and possibly not even that any more. According to some sources the vaccinated are already statistically over-represented among the hospitalized. So the logic behind defending such a mandate is getting increasingly questionable.

Nobody choses to catch covid but people do chose to intoxicate themselves.
 

Trollopian

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Another issue with the more sensitive tests is that they may detect "environmental contamination," not actual drug use. For example, say you walk down the streets of Manhattan, breathing in the secondhand weed smoke, a hair test might come up positive. Test labs understand this, but they have to be arbitrary about where they set their "cut-off" limits that distinguish between a positive and negative test.

I can walk through Dupont Circle here in DC, with a mask on, and still smell the weed. Come to think of it, maybe I oughta take my anxious cat to Dupont Circle.
 
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