Thursday, August 20, 2015

Medical Marijuana Users Won't Be Protected From SFMTA's New Drug Testing for Taxi Drivers. (FULL AUDIO RECORDING) By John Han.

(Below is the full, unedited audio recording of Thursday's informational hearing on San Francisco's taxi drug testing program.)

(Click on arrow above to listen to unedited audio of Thursday's informational session provided by Bill Kerekes and Barbara Conway, of Energetic Corporation.)

San Francisco taxi drivers using prescribed medical marijuana will have to go to drug rehabilitation, and then stop smoking or ingesting medical marijuana once they've tested positive for pot, under the SFMTA's recently proposed taxi drug test program.  

The program, which would be mandatory, is expected to go before the MTA Board on September 15, 2015, according to Jarvis Murray, enforcement and legal affairs manager of SFMTA .  If approved on that day, October 15 would be the official day of implementation, and the SFMTA would work to make sure the program is fully operational by the end of the year, Murray says. 

The program would likely be contracted to Energetix Corporation, a New York based company that administers drug testing. Bill Kerekes, president of Energetix Corporation, and Barbara Conway, a local consultant, held an informational hearing in San Francisco on Thursday, giving an overview of the program.

The drugs that would be tested for are marijuana, cocaine, opiates (e.g. heroin), amphetamines/methamphetamines (w/ecstasy), phencyclidine (PCP), and alcohol.The types of tests would be:

Annual Driving Certification – Each taxi driver will be tested for drug and alcohol abuse as a condition of receiving his or her annual certification, (I presume this means at every A-Card renewal). 

Post Accident – Drug and alcohol tests will be conducted, when an accident results in 1) a fatality, 2) an issuance of a moving violation citation to the taxi driver, 3) one or more of the vehicles involved is towed AND/OR 4) a person involved in the accident needs offsite medical treatment. 

Reasonable Suspicion – If a supervisor or manager observes or has reason to believe there are signs and symptoms of substance abuse, the supervisor or manager should direct the driver to be tested. Drug AND alcohol tests will be conducted. Managers and supervisors will receive training during project start up to learn how to detect signs of drug and alcohol abuse. 

Return to Duty / Follow Up – If the company policy permits a driver to return to work after rehabilitation from positive tests, these tests would be conducted. All “Return to Duty and Follow Up” tests are conducted under the direct observation of clinic staff of the same gender observing driver urinating in the cup.

California law requires local jurisdictions to ensure their taxi drivers be drug tested.  

Below is an excerpt from the text of CA. Government Code 53075.5.  The relevant subsection is (3)(a) and is highlighted in underlined, bold italics.

 53075.5. (a) Notwithstanding Chapter 8 (commencing with Section
5351) of Division 2 of the Public Utilities Code, every city or
county shall protect the public health, safety, and welfare by
adopting an ordinance or resolution in regard to taxicab
transportation service rendered in vehicles designed for carrying not
more than eight persons, excluding the driver, which is operated
within the jurisdiction of the city or county.
(b) Each city or county shall provide for, but is not limited to
providing for, the following:
(1) A policy for entry into the business of providing taxicab
transportation service. The policy shall include, but need not be
limited to, all of the following provisions:
(A) Employment, or an offer of employment, as a taxicab driver in
the jurisdiction, including compliance with all of the requirements
of the program adopted pursuant to paragraph (3), shall be a
condition of issuance of a driver's permit.
(B) The driver's permit shall become void upon termination of
(C) The driver's permit shall state the name of the employer.
(D) The employer shall notify the city or county upon termination
of employment.
(E) The driver shall return the permit to the city or county upon
termination of employment.
(2) The establishment or registration of rates for the provision
of taxicab transportation service.

(3) (A) A mandatory controlled substance and alcohol testing
certification program. The program shall include, but need not be limited to, all of the following requirements:

(i) Drivers shall test negative for each of the controlled
substances specified in Part 40 (commencing with Section 40.1) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, before employment.  Drivers shall test negative for these controlled substances and for alcohol as a condition of permit renewal or, if no periodic permit renewals are required, at such other times as the city or county shall designate. As used in this section, a negative test for alcohol means an alcohol screening test showing a breath alcohol concentration of less than 0.02 percent.

(ii) Procedures shall be substantially as in Part 40 (commencing
with Section 40.1) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, except that the driver shall show a valid California driver's license at the time and place of testing, and except as provided otherwise in this section. Requirements for rehabilitation and for return-to-duty and followup testing and other requirements, except as provided otherwise in this section, shall be substantially as in Part 382 (commencing with Section 382.101) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

(iii) A test in one jurisdiction shall be accepted as meeting the same requirement in any other jurisdiction. Any negative test result shall be accepted for one year as meeting a requirement for periodic permit renewal testing or any other periodic testing in that jurisdiction or any other jurisdiction, if the driver has not tested positive subsequent to a negative result. However, an earlier negative result shall not be accepted as meeting the pre-employment testing requirement for any subsequent employment, or any testing requirements under the program other than periodic testing.

(iv) In the case of a self-employed independent driver, the test
results shall be reported directly to the city or county, which shall notify the taxicab leasing company of record, if any, of positive results. In all other cases, the results shall be reported directly to the employing transportation operator, who may be required to notify the city or county of positive results.

(v) All test results are confidential and shall not be released
without the consent of the driver, except as authorized or required by law.

(vi) Self-employed independent drivers shall be responsible for
compliance with, and shall pay all costs of, this program with regard to themselves. Employing transportation operators shall be responsible for compliance with, and shall pay all costs of, this program with respect to their employees and potential employees, except that an operator may require employees who test positive to pay the costs of rehabilitation and of return-to-duty and followup testing.

(vii) Upon the request of a driver applying for a permit, the city or county shall give the driver a list of the consortia certified pursuant to Part 382 (commencing with Section 382.101) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations that the city or county knows offer tests in or near the jurisdiction.

(B) No evidence derived from a positive test result pursuant to
the program shall be admissible in a criminal prosecution concerning unlawful possession, sale or distribution of controlled substances.

(c) Each city or county may levy service charges, fees, or
assessments in an amount sufficient to pay for the costs of carrying
out an ordinance or resolution adopted in regard to taxicab
transportation services pursuant to this section.
(d) Nothing in this section prohibits a city or county from
adopting additional requirements for a taxicab to operate in its
(e) For purposes of this section, "employment" includes
self-employment as an independent driver.



  1. Hi John,

    Nice coverage.

    To include medical marijuana users is outrageous.


  2. Hi John, what's the policies and procedures for the drugs testing for Muni bus drivers? Are they same as this proposal or different?

    1. If I listen to the recording above, I believe it says that Muni bus drivers are tested the same way. But, you should listen to the recording.

    2. I think a sentiment we're going to see from cab drivers is that if cab drivers are going to be drug tested like Muni employees, they want more than what they've got. They'd want the City to help with a healthcare program, and other perks like sick days. etc. And, they're going to want TNC drivers to be tested the same way.

      I think many drivers already feel cheated by the medallion sales program and the City's lack of enforcement over TNCs.

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  7. "We know you're using it for medical reasons but we don't care, you're fired"

    Stay classy, SF.

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