Stoners should be allowed to drive city buses, say transport authorities

Stoners should be allowed to drive city buses, say transport authorities

CultureSeptember 08, 2017 By Reilly Capps

If you're a responsible stoner with tickets to Muse, you'll get high the safe way. You'll pull a tube of Alaskan Thunderfuck shatter and boof four Cheeba Chews in your home — where it's legal. Then you'll stumble toward the city bus — which is safe. You know your bus driver is a professional.

But how would you feel if the bus driver spied your t-shirt and howled happily: "Bruh, I saw Muse last night! So blazed I couldn't remember my own name! Ha ha! Anyway, you need a transfer?"

Would you board the bus? Or would you jump off and quickly open the Lyft app?

This is a twisted vision of the future that may come to pass if a growing movement succeeds in changing the rules about drug tests and transportation. Some want bus drivers to be able to smoke weed.

The reason? Colorado's bus company, RTD — and a lot of others — are low on drivers. They're not passing drug tests.

"A lot of the people we randomly test, test positive for marijuana," says Bonnie "Ernest" Archuleta, board member for RTD. The organization has 115 openings for bus drivers, he says. Which means the existing drivers have to work overtime, which costs extra money and leads to tired drivers, which is dangerous.

Drivers who get lit in their off hours, though, are probably as safe as any other driver.

"Weed stays in your body for a month. So they're probably not smoking while they're driving," Archuleta says. "But if you test positive for it, they won't use you. Period end of subject."

He'd like to see things change.

"You gotta be more lax on that," he adds. "When they go home I don't care what people do."

[Bonnie "Ernest" Archuleta, board member for RTD.] 

Most transportation jobs test for pot. And it leads to problems, and not just for the bus company. Companies struggle to find enough non-stoners. McLane, a grocery supply company in Colorado, said that up to 90 percent of its applicants test positive for something. Colorado's unemployment rate, 2.3 percent, is second lowest in the country. So possible drivers can easily find jobs other places.

Denver's NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — is working toward reforming drug testing policies so they exclude marijuana. They've held lobbying days at the state capitol to persuade politicians to work toward relaxing the rules around testing for a drug that is legal for everybody and which is, for some people, a helpful medicine. By one count, 91 percent of drug tests in Colorado and Washington still test for marijuana.

Paul Solano, another board member, agrees with Archuleta that the drug testing rules should be changed.

Using marijuana, "shouldn't be any different from when people use alcohol," Solano explains. "If you indulge on Friday you should be fine by Monday."

Pot is legal in some form in almost 30 states. Yet the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. acts like weed is illegal everywhere, and says that if you're getting federal bucks, you have to test for federal drugs. Ed Britt, running for Colorado's state house for the west side of Denver, says the best way to change the drug testing policy is to flip the U.S. congress from Republican to Democrat.

A Colorado bus driver, who didn't want his name used (because he doesn't want to be thought of as a stoner), calls testing for weed "bogus."

"It's none of their business what you do in your off hours," they say. "It has nothing to do with your performace of your ability to operate safely."

Will riders revolt if they know their drivers might have vaped last night? Since there's no super accurate way to test whether a person is high right now or was high last night, how can Denver authorities prevent drivers from actually driving high?

These are all details that Solano, Archuleta and Britt hope can be worked out so that, in the future, anyone might be able to tip their bus driver with joints and ask her to crank up the radio to "Big Down," for the smoothest trillest ride home of your life.