The National Academies

TCRP J-11/Task 48 [RFP]

Marijuana Testing Regulations and Employer Policies: Impacts on Public Transportation Employment

Posted Date: 6/11/2024

  Project Data
Funds: $125,000
Contract Time: 18 months
(includes 1 month for TCRP review and approval of the interim report and 3 months for TCRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 12/15/2024 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Dianne S. Schwager
   Phone: 202/334-2969
   Email: dschwager@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 8/8/2024
Fiscal Year: 2024


Reflecting changes in societal attitudes, 24 states, three territories, and Washington, DC, have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and while there are variations in state laws regarding its use for medical purposes, 38 states have legalized medical marijuana. Although alcohol is used by more people than marijuana in the United States, marijuana is now more intensively used (i.e., on a daily or near daily basis) than alcohol (Addiction, Society for the Study of Addiction, 2024). In addition to increases in recreational use, cannabinoid consumption has increased because marijuana derivative products are now part of dietary supplements, over-the-counter products, and manufactured foods. Some require a health care provider recommendation, others can be readily purchased at commercial outlets, and consumers of these products often test positive for marijuana use.  

Changes in marijuana use in the United States affect the public transportation industry regarding the recruitment, retention, training, and disciplinary practices for employees in safety-sensitive positions, such as passenger vehicle operators. Public transportation agencies indicate increased positive test results for marijuana use by prospective employees and by employees who are tested following vehicle incidents. Research into the workforce shortages faced by the transit industry has identified drug testing as a barrier to hiring and retaining transit workers, especially vehicle operators (American Public Transportation Association, 2022).  

  • U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) rules. While changes in state laws have generated confusion about marijuana use, federal authorities, in particular, USDOT rules (49 CFR Parts 40 and 655) are clear that, regardless of state laws to the contrary, the use of marijuana by Federal Transit Administration defined safety-sensitive public transportation employees is always prohibited. Employees covered by these rules are subject to pre-employment, post-accident, random, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up tests. There appears to be widespread misunderstanding among employees who believe, contrary to the federal rules, that they can use marijuana where state law permits.  

  • Drug testing methods.USDOT regulations authorize either urine or oral fluid specimen testing at a laboratory certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These tests can detect recent drug use, but they do not measure impairment. 
    • Urine testing, which is more established and far more available, detects the presence of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis) and its metabolite THC-COOH which is non-psychoactive. THC is detectable in urine for a day or two after marijuana use, however THC-COOH may be detected for several days or weeks after last marijuana use for frequent, chronic users.
    • Oral fluid testing, which analyzes for THC, detects more recent drug use (within 1-36 hours). However, this testing method has not yet been fully implemented for USDOT-mandated drug testing, as there are not currently any laboratories certified by HHS to carry out oral fluid testing in the context of the USDOT program. 

  • Disciplinary practices. Public transportation agencies take different approaches to discipline those who violate marijuana-related USDOT regulations. For example, (1) some public transportation agencies have zero-tolerance policies that disqualify applicants who test positive and require termination of employees following their first infraction; (2) others have second chance policies; and (3) some have hybrid discipline policies. Public transportation agencies have reported that arbitrators and administrative law judges have overturned some disciplinary decisions in states where marijuana is legalized. 

  • Proposed rescheduling of marijuana. On May 21, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration announced a proposed rescheduling of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). (Schedule III drugs have a low to moderate potential for abuse and/or addiction and are less dangerous than Schedule I or II.) The proposed change arose since, according to the HHS, marijuana now has accepted medical uses. If the proposed change occurs, revisions to the USDOT regulations are very likely to be needed.  

Research is needed to provide reliable, useful information and to present strategies for addressing issues relating to marijuana use by safety-sensitive public transportation employees.  


The objective of this project is to provide clear, accurate, and current information related to the use of marijuana by current and prospective employees in safety-sensitive positions at public transportation agencies in the United States. The deliverables should dispel misinformation and help public transportation agencies address challenges in recruiting, disciplining, and retaining safety-sensitive employees. The final deliverable(s) should address:  

  • Educational materials. Audience appropriate materials pertaining to marijuana should be prepared for current and prospective employees. This should include materials for employers who administer relevant policies and procedures and employees who are subject to them. The materials should include links to relevant federal agencies to facilitate access to up-to-date information, in particular, regarding federal law. 

  • Testing methods. The differences between currently available testing methods for marijuana and federally required methods should be presented along with the pros and cons of each method. Information on marijuana testing methods in development (e.g., testing for impairment) or in private sector use and their expected timeline for approval for federal and USDOT testing should also be addressed. 

  • Employment disciplinary practices. A broad range of employment disciplinary practices, associated with marijuana use, should be presented, and compared. These include practices currently in use by public transportation agencies and other organizations with USDOT covered safety-sensitive employees. The research should address the efficacy, efficiency, and challenges of each approach. The research must include practices from public transportation agencies serving urban areas of all sizes and rural communities. 

  • Legal analysis of marijuana rescheduling. Considering the proposed rule change, an analysis is needed that addresses the possible implications on USDOT drug testing regulations if marijuana is rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III of the CSA.    


The TCRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meet the research objective. Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research.  

The research plan will describe appropriate deliverables that include the following (which also represent key project milestones): 

  • An amplified research plan that responds to comments provided by the project panel at the contractor selection meeting.
  • An interim report and panel meeting. The interim report should include the analyses and results of completed tasks, a plan for the remaining tasks, and a detailed outline of the final research product(s). The panel meeting will be virtual (e.g., Zoom) and will take place after the panel review of the interim report. The interim report should be submitted, and panel meeting should occur after the expenditure of about 40 to 50 percent of the project budget.
  • Final deliverables. The final deliverables should fully address this research project’s objective.
  • A technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (see Special Note L).
  • A slide deck that presents the research findings and conclusions that may be used in webinars. 

Note: The research plan may include additional deliverables and panel meetings via teleconferences. 

Note: The research plan shall include a schedule for completion of the research that includes 1 month for panel review of the interim report and 3 months for panel review and contractor revision of the final research product(s).


A. The research should address the implications of a variety of legal authorities affecting the testing of transit employees for marijuana. These include the USDOT drug testing regulations (49 CFR Parts 40 and 655), the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act (OTETA), the HHS Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program, and Executive Order 12564. Provisions of these authorities, and their interaction, may affect the discretion of the USDOT and policy choices of public transportation agencies with respect to marijuana testing for transit employees. 

B. Proposals should demonstrate knowledge of relevant literature and completed and ongoing research relevant to this research project. 

C. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were revised in May 2023. Please take note of the new and revised text which is highlighted in yellow. 

D. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected. For other requirements, refer to chapter V of the instructions. 

E. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs have been modified to include a revised policy and instructions for disclosing Investigator Conflict of Interest. For more information, refer to chapter IV of the instructions. A detailed definition and examples can be found in the CRP Conflict of Interest Policy for Contractors. The proposer recommended by the project panel will be required to submit an Investigator Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Form as a prerequisite for contract negotiations. 

F. Proposals will be rejected if any of the proposed research team members work for organizations represented on the project panel. The panel roster for this project can be found at https://www.mytrb.org/OnlineDirectory/Committee/Details/7022. Proposers may not contact panel members directly; this roster is provided solely for the purpose of avoiding potential conflicts of interest. 

G. Proprietary Products - If any proprietary products are to be used or tested in the project, please refer to Item 6 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals

H. Proposals are evaluated by the TCRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively knowledgeable in the problem area. The project panel will recommend their first choice proposal considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities. A recommendation by the project panel is not a guarantee of a contract. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS - the contracting authority for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) will conduct an internal due diligence review and risk assessment of the panel’s recommended proposal before contract negotiations continue. 

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal. 

I. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academy of Sciences. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academy of Sciences. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors. 

J. The text of the final deliverable is expected to be publication ready when it is submitted. It is strongly recommended that the research team include the expertise of a technical editor as early in the project timeline as possible. See Appendix F of the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Program for technical editing standards expected in final deliverables. 

K. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals. Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000. 

L. The required technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” should (a) provide recommendations on how to best put the research findings/products into practice; (b) identify possible institutions that might take leadership in applying the research findings/products; (c) identify issues affecting potential implementation of the findings/products and recommend possible actions to address these issues; and (d) recommend methods of identifying and measuring the impacts associated with implementation of the findings/products. Implementation of these recommendations is not part of the research project and, if warranted, details of these actions will be developed and implemented in future efforts. 

M. If the team proposes a Principal Investigator who is not an employee of the Prime Contractor, or if the Prime Contractor is proposed to conduct less than 50% of the total effort (by time or budget), then section five of the proposal should include: (1) a justification of why this approach is appropriate, and (2) a description of how the Prime Contractor will ensure adequate communication and coordination with their Subcontractors throughout the project.

N. All budget information should be suitable for printing on 8½″ x 11″ paper. If a budget page cannot fit on a single 8½″ x 11″ page, it should be split over multiple pages. Proposers must use the Excel templates provided in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs

O. The National Academies have an ethical and legal obligation to provide proper attribution whenever material from other sources is included in its reports, online postings, and other publications and products. TRB will review all Cooperative Research Programs draft final deliverables using the software iThenticate for potential plagiarism. If plagiarized text appears in the draft final deliverable, the research team will be required to make revisions and the opportunity to submit future proposals may be affected. 

Proposals must be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/yiuyCUWH6yyZDbjM1aM5 
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 8/8/2024.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a fillable PDF version of the Liability Statement. A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at https://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals". Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section IV for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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