Haze continues to hang over legalization of marijuana

Whether or not you agree with the legalization of marijuana, society and our lawmakers have spoken, and it’s coming. Are you prepared?

I’m not sure any of us are. There is still a ton of misinformation about how legalization will affect our industry and for drivers, your career. Some drivers have wondered if they are allowed to smoke pot in Canada when off-duty and continue to operate in the U.S.

That’s a big no-no. The U.S. will continue to require drug testing and to take a zero-tolerance approach, regardless as to whether marijuana is used for recreational or medicinal purposes. So, do yourself a huge favor and if you plan to continue hauling to the U.S., don’t indulge.

You’d think this would be obvious, but it clearly isn’t. Just look to the states that have legalized marijuana for proof. They’ve seen the percentage of workers in safety-sensitive positions such as trucking who tested positive for marijuana rise substantially.

Drug test failures went up 39% in Nevada, 20% in California, and 11% in Massachusetts, according to a Quest Diagnostics review of 10 million drug tests. Similar findings occurred in Washington and Colorado following legalization in those states.

One must wonder if this will create new challenges for cross-border fleets. Today’s youth in general seem to be “4/20-friendly,” and an industry struggling to attract young workers may find they’re uninterested in a career that takes a zero-tolerance approach to pot. Those truckers who do like to indulge while off-duty will likely choose domestic trucking jobs, meaning it may be more difficult to find cross-border drivers.

To further complicate matters, it’s nearly inevitable that trucking companies of any size will have to deal with the issue of marijuana use in the workplace. Are you prepared to do so? Do you have a drug and alcohol policy in place? Has it been updated to reflect the impending legalization of marijuana? Do you have plans to accommodate employees who claim to have an addiction?

My gut feeling is that many fleets will be learning as they go. Precedents will be set. And companies will be handcuffed until clarity is provided through our court system and human rights tribunals.

All this is exacerbated by the fact there is still not a testing method that measures impairment. THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, stays in your system for a long time and failing one of the currently available drug tests doesn’t mean you are impaired. This is a fairly significant detail that the government seems to be overlooking as we hurtle towards legalization.

We delve into these topics in more detail on pages 16-17 of this month’s issue. Unfortunately, with marijuana legalization just months away, many questions remain unanswered and a thick haze continues to hang over what the impact on trucking will be.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • You are right James!
    We had little problems before and now it is or will be a huge one kids these days do what ever they want to do too much freedom, and now with this young prime minister we see the result.
    Canada would probably compete with the Cartel in south America and we will see more small dope peddler going to war against each other, more crime and the rest of what this dope will bring.
    I am against it fully and there is no room for excuses in saying it was second hand smoke so it would be ok.

  • All this brought to by the same people who came up with speed limiters on trucks (105 kmh) and ELDs.
    Now more than ever the trucks better drive themselfs.

  • Today’s youth in general seem to be “4/20-friendly,” and an industry struggling to attract young workers may find they’re uninterested in a career that takes a zero-tolerance approach to pot.
    Yeah and uninterested in a career that has you laying over one or two hours from home on a long weekend.
    Or trusting you not to do 105kmh in a school Zone(You could) just dont do 110 kph on the 401

  • But not only for recreational and medical fields, but also for industry and businesses. A increasing number of businesses are attempting to capture a greater portion of the cannabis market in the United States or even in some countries, with the recreational use of marijuana by adults becoming legal in some states.