Can You Have a Commercial Driving License (CDL) and a Medical Marijuana Card?

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The use of medical marijuana is becoming increasingly common, but what happens when you also hold a Commercial Driving License (CDL)? 

Can you legally have both? In this article, we will delve into the complexities surrounding CDLs and medical marijuana cards, discussing the laws governing these two areas and providing guidance for commercial drivers who may be facing this dilemma. So buckle up and get ready for an informative ride!

Does the Cole Memo Protect CDL Drivers?

The Cole Memo, which was issued in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice, provides guidance to prosecutors and law enforcement officials on how to prioritize cases involving the possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana. 

A woman holding Commercial Driving License

The Cole Memo does not explicitly protect CDL holders who use medical marijuana, but it does suggest that states should not prosecute individuals who are in compliance with state law. 

This could be interpreted to mean that CDL holders who use medical marijuana in states where it is legal should not be prosecuted by the federal government.

Are Protections in Place for CDL Drivers Needing Medical Marijuana in Any State?

Yes, there are protections in place for CDL drivers needing medical marijuana in some states. For example, in Colorado, it is against the law to fire a CDL driver solely for testing positive for marijuana. 

In addition, some states have ” reciprocity agreements ” with other states that recognize medical marijuana cards from those states. 

This means that a driver with a medical marijuana card from one of those states can still drive in another state that has a reciprocity agreement with their home state.

What About CBD and CDLs?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, and it is one of the many cannabinoids found in marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not have psychoactive effects. 

This means that it will not make you high. However, CBD does have medical benefits. It has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of conditions, including anxiety, pain, and inflammation.

So, what does this mean for CDL holders? Currently, the DOT (Department of Transportation) does not allow drivers to use cannabis, regardless of whether it contains THC or CBD. 

This includes medical marijuana. If a driver tests positive for cannabis, they will be disqualified from holding a CDL.

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There are a few exceptions to the rule that CDL holders cannot have a medical marijuana card. 

  • First, if you live in a state where recreational and medical marijuana are both legal, you may be able to hold both a CDL and a medical marijuana card
  • Second, if you only use CBD products that are low in THC, you may also be able to hold both a CDL and a medical marijuana card. 
  • Third, if you have a CDL from before the DOT’s policy change in 2016, you may be grandfathered in and allowed to keep your CDL even if you have a medical marijuana card.


Jennifer Williams
Jennifer Williams
In my early twenties, I had everything in the palm of my hand. I was a journalist, published author, and was passionate about cannabis. Quickly realizing that the cannabis industry wasn't going to take off the way I wanted it to, I decided I needed a change.After some soul searching and self-reflection, I realized that all of my passions were centered on wellness. CBD is an incredible healing tool with scientific research backing its effectiveness in alleviating anxiety and promoting restorative sleep. With CBD becoming a more mainstream topic every day (not just among the medical community), it seemed like this was something that could be well worth pursuing!