The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors is tentatively set to vote on annual drug testing of local taxi drivers at its October meeting. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

City may soon drug test taxi drivers, even for medical marijuana

San Franciscans of all stripes can legally obtain medical marijuana cards, but medicating cabbies may soon have to give up the green.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors is tentatively set to vote on annual drug testing of local taxi drivers at its October meeting, according to the SFMTA.

The draft of the drug testing proposal does not carve out an exception for users of medical cannabis, advocates found.

When asked why there was no exception for medical cannabis users, SFMTA spokesman Robert Lyles told the San Francisco Examiner, “The SFMTA has no way of knowing which operator possesses a medical marijuana card.”

The proposal was first made public in a blog post by taxi driver John Han, who also produced the taxi documentary “Driving for Hire.” The SFMTA board may also consider hiring company Energetix to perform drug tests. Energetix provides similar services in New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin, and the company has already met with the SFMTA’s Taxi and Accessible Services, according to Han.

The draft proposal calls for annual drug testing when taxi drivers renew their “A-Cards” (a type of permit), as well as drug and alcohol testing after traffic collisions.

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

“This may cause drivers to go to Uber or Lyft,” he said.

Lyles said the change in protocol is intended to bring the SFMTA in compliance with state law.

Dale Gieringer, head of cannabis advocacy group California NORML, said the SFMTA should provide an exemption for medical marijuana users from drug testing.

“It discriminates stupidly against both medical and casual off-the-job users,” Gieringer told 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.”

The SFMTA board’s president, Tom Nolan, told the Examiner he knew nothing of the proposal.

Notably, federal studies say drug tests may catch cannabis use as far as a month afterwards. Nolan said he was concerned about the possible inaccuracies.

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

cannabislegalization 2016MarijuanaSan Francisco Municipal Transportation AgencySFMTAtaxi industrytaxisTransit

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