SFMTA board to vote on drug testing taxi drivers

Photo by Mike Koozmin, SF Examiner.

San Francisco taxi drivers may soon be subject to drug and alcohol testing.

A proposal to require such tests will go before the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Tuesday, at their 1 p.m. meeting.

The drug tests would be required when taxi drivers renew their cab permits with The City, apply for a new permit, after having an accident and if there is reasonable suspicion of drug use, according to the resolution.

The purpose of the resolution is to bring San Francisco’s taxi industry in line with a California government code requiring testing of taxi drivers, which was enacted in 1996, according to state records.

Medical marijuana-smoking cabbies are not exempted from drug testing, according to the SFMTA. So those medicating may need to give up the “good green.”

Some in the taxi industry have protested, saying San Franciscans are allowed, under local law, to purchase medical cannabis (marijuana).

Carl Macmurdo, president of the Medallion Holders Association, said he’s worried the local industry would then lose “hundreds” of drivers.

“This may cause drivers to go to Uber or Lyft,” he told us when the drug testing was first announced, in August.

But state law does not yet fully recognize marijuana as legal. In the resolution on drug testing going before the board, the SFMTA addresses this legal limbo.

“Many in the (taxi) industry believe that a positive test for marijuana should be excused if the driver is able to present a prescription for medicinal marijuana,” SFMTA wrote. “However, state law requires that testing comply with federal testing regulations. The federal regulations (49 CFR §40.137(e)(2)) do not recognize marijuana as having a legitimate medical explanation for a positive drug test.”

“For this to change,” SFMTA wrote, “state law would have to be amended.”

If approved, the SFMTA would create seven drug testing sites in San Francisco, with one of them available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

A taxicab driver applicant that tests positive for the required controlled substances will be automatically denied a taxicab permit, according to the resolution.

The SFMTA would pay for drug testing when drivers apply for permits, but taxi companies would pay for drug testing if a driver is in an accident.

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