Would you hire a medical marijuana patient to drive truck?

It’s no secret this industry is starved for drivers, especially young drivers. I received a letter the other day from a 26-year-old with aspirations of becoming a professional truck driver. But here’s the catch: He uses medical marijuana to deal with various medical issues, primarily insomnia. Would you hire this prospective driver for a domestic driving job?

This letter was written to me after reading our previous coverage of the issue of medical marijuana consumption in the trucking industry. Patti Satok, whose case we first reported on, will have her day before a Human Rights Tribunal in March. The subsequent decision will for the first time shed some light on the legalities around driving truck when using medical marijuana while off-duty. Is there an obligation to hire these applicants? Is there an obligation to retain them if they begin using medical marijuana? Must we find non-driving jobs for them? These questions and more will hopefully be answered following Patti’s Human Rights Tribunal hearing, which, of course, we’ll be reporting on.

But for now, read the letter below. Should this gentleman be precluded from working in the trucking industry because of his use of prescription pot?:

I am 26 years old and currently in the process of trying to get into the trucking industry as a driver. I live in the Vancouver area and am a medical cannabis patient.

The reasons why I use medical cannabis are for insomnia that I have suffered from since birth, ADD, chronic pain and emotional issues – the biggest issue being my insomnia. As far as I am concerned, better to “smoke some dope” every day to help me go to sleep than to be awake for days at a time and then not be able to react to an emergency situation while driving.

Better to have a level head and to be able to focus on one thing at a time (like the road ahead of me for example) by “smoking some dope” than to have 10 things that I can’t stop thinking about. Better for me to be able to greet my customers with a smile and do a good job because I “smoke some dope” than to be in a bad mood and make a customer mad at me thus negatively impacting my reputation with my employer.

My preferred method of consumption of cannabis is vaporizing a concentration of the plant called Shatter by placing a small drop on a hot titanium ‘nail’ which is attached to a specialized water pipe or ‘bong.’

I use this method because it is a clean form of consumption, which doesn’t use combustion and smoke like burning the flower itself, but rather a water vapor containing a higher concentration of the medicinal ingredients.

This allows me to inhale my medicine rather than orally intake it (which is important because oral intake doesn’t work for me), while still being able to maintain my asthma by not inhaling smoke but instead inhaling water vapor.

It doesn’t have the same skunk smell that is usually associated with consuming cannabis and because it isn’t actually smoke, it can be consumed indoors at my home (or in the sleeper cab of a truck during off-duty time for example) without leaving any long-term smell in the area. I have never consumed before work or while on the job – that’s just stupid, but on my off time I am consistently stoned. This allows me to mellow out and come down after a hard day at work, and then allows me to keep a level head throughout the next working day.

For over six years I worked as a commercial tire technician driving a service truck doing emergency roadside calls on semi-trucks at all times of the day or night. The entire six years I worked in the tire industry, I consumed Cannabis on a regular basis when off duty and had no accidents either driving my truck or when doing the job, which was very dangerous (as anybody in the trucking industry knows).

I have decided to change career paths because I wanted a more stable career with better pay so I can settle down and get married with my girlfriend of almost three years and start a family.

The reason I am writing is because I saw your article titled “Medical marijuana and trucking” (as well as the previous related articles) and felt this article related to myself and my current situation. I have been doing research over the last couple of weeks and have found a very small amount of related articles pertaining to my situation.

From what I have been able to find I know this: don’t go near the American border if you consume cannabis, and there is nothing illegal about consuming cannabis when you have a MMPR (Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations) licence. I don’t want to drive south so the former doesn’t bother me.

The question still remains: Can an employer legally disqualify you from employment for consuming Cannabis when you are a MMPR patient?

From my understanding, most employers have a policy stating “no alcohol, no illegal drugs” which by personal interpretation could be taken one way or another when having cannabis as context. A lot of people still perceive Cannabis as something as bad as other illicit drugs such as cocaine and meth, while other people see the medicinal benefits that come from the consumption of cannabis.

From some of the articles that I have read, I believe that from a legal perspective as a MMPR patient any prospective employer should treat my consumption of cannabis the same as any pharmaceutical prescribed by a doctor such as codeine, opiate-based painkillers (which personally I don’t agree with being available to the public in the first place) and oxycontin. There is no concrete law that I have been able to find for this specific type of situation, however there is plenty of grey area about the issue. Most people I find quote the “Human Rights Act of Canada,” but I say that’s a very grey area that is a loose debate no mater what side of the issue you stand on.

Digressing aside, my point is that I am fearful that my use of cannabis will restrict my employment opportunities with the specific companies that I wish to drive for. In my experience in the tire industry I worked closely with many trucking companies from all over Canada and have a specific list of companies I want to drive for because I know they maintain their equipment, treat their drivers well and haul my preferred load types on my preferred routes. However most of them drug test even though they don’t run south and I don’t want my legal cannabis use to negatively impact my chances of getting hired.


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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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  • Why does most everyone jump to the automatic, knee-jerk, and FALSE assumption that cannabis impairs drivers much the same as does alcohol? Why let uninformed opinions be the basis of new laws? It took me very little time to do a search, and find actual scientific studies which indicate just how incorrect such an assumption is. Examples follow.

    Studies Show Marijuana Consumption Not Associated With Dangerous Driving, May Lead to Safer Drivers
    Anyone who consumes cannabis on a regular basis knows that it doesn’t make you a dangerous driver. Many people find that it makes them a safer, more focused driver; one that’s more aware of their surroundings and the dangers associated with controlling tons of gasoline-filled metal. Not only has this been an anecdotal truth for as long as cars and cannabis have been paired, science has also been clear that consuming marijuana doesn’t make you a dangerous driver, and may make some people safer drivers. More research is needed, but it’s hard to deny that of the research we have, marijuana hasn’t been found to increase a person’s risk of an accident. To back this claim up, here’s a list of studies and research conducted on this very topic, some of which were funded by national governments in hopes of different results.

    Marijuana and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Evidence
    “Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills, yet it does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol. Below is a summary of some of the existing data.”

    The incidence and role of drugs in fatally injured drivers
    “There was no indication that cannabis by itself was a cause of fatal crashes.”
    REFERENCE: Washington, DC: US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,
    Report No. DOT HS 808 065, K. Terhune. 1992.

    Marijuana’s effects on actual driving performance
    “Evidence from the present and previous studies strongly suggests that alcohol encourages risky driving whereas THC encourages greater caution. .. Drivers under the influence of marijuana retain insight in their performance and will compensate when they can, for example, by slowing down or increasing effort. As a consequence, THC’s adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small.”
    REFERENCE: University of Adelaide study, 1995

    Role of cannabis in motor vehicle crashes
    “There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.. The more cautious behavior of subjects who have received marijuana decreases the impact of the drug on performance, whereas the opposite holds true for alcohol.”
    REFERENCE: Marijuana: On-Road and Driving-Simulator Studies; Epidemiologic Reviews 21: 222-232, A. Smiley. 1999.

    “Both simulation and road trials generally find that driving behaviour shortly after consumption of larger doses of cannabis results in (i) a more cautious driving style; (ii) increased variability in lane position (and headway); and (iii) longer decision times. Whereas these results indicate a ‘change’ from normal conditions, they do not necessarily reflect ‘impairment’ in terms of performance effectiveness since few studies report increased accident risk.”
    REFERENCE: UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (Road Safety Division). 2000.

    Cannabis And Cannabinoids – Pharmacology, Toxicology And Therapy
    “At the present time, the evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven”.
    REFERENCE: G. Chesher and M. Longo. 2002.

    Cannabis: Our position for a Canadian Public Policy
    “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving. Cannabis leads to a more cautious style of driving. However it has a negative impact on decision time and trajectory. This in itself does not mean that drivers under the influence of cannabis represent a traffic safety risk”
    REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs. 2002.

    “The evidence to suggest an involvement of cannabis in road crashes is scientifically unproven.”
    REFERENCE: Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, 2002
    Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential, edited by Franjo Grotenhermen, MD and Ethan Russo, MD (Haworth Press 2002).

    The Prevalence of Drug Use in Drivers, and Characteristics of the Drug-Positive Group
    “There was a clear relationship between alcohol and culpability. In contrast, there was no significant increase in culpability for cannabinoids alone.”
    REFERENCE: Accident Analysis and Prevention 32(5): 613-622. Longo, MC; Hunter, CE; Lokan, RJ; White, JM; and White, MA. (2000a).

    The Effect Of Cannabis Compared With Alcohol On Driving
    “Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2009

    Why Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Traffic Deaths
    “No differences were found during the baseline driving segment (and the) collision avoidance scenarios,”
    REFERENCE: Research published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2010

    Top 10 Reasons Marijuana Users Are Safer Drivers
    “20 years of study has concluded that marijuana smokers may actually have fewer accidents than other drivers.”

    Risk of severe driver injury by driving with psychoactive substances
    “The study found that those with a blood alcohol level of 0.12% were over 30 times more likely to get into a serious accident than someone who’s consumed any amount of cannabis. .. The least risky drug seemed to be cannabis and benzodiazepines and Z-drugs.”
    REFERENCE: Accident Analysis & Prevention; Volume 59, October 2013, Pages 346–356

    Cannabis: Summary Report
    “Cannabis alone, particularly in low doses, has little effect on the skills involved in automobile driving.”
    REFERENCE: Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs

    Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk
    “There is no evidence that consumption of cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for traffic crash fatalities or injuries for which hospitalization occurs, and may reduce those risks.”
    REFERENCE: British Medical Journal, 1999; M. Bates and T. Blakely

    Marijuana-DUI Case Tossed by Arizona Supreme Court in Metabolite Ruling
    “Because the legislature intended to prevent impaired driving, we hold that the ‘metabolite’ reference in [the law] is limited to any of a proscribed substance’s metabolites that are capable of causing impairment . . . Drivers cannot be convicted of the . . . offense based merely on the presence of a non-impairing metabolite that may reflect the prior usage of marijuana.”

    “Stick all *that* in your pipe and smoke it!”

  • No chance would I hire anyone using any form of drugs, “legal” or otherwise. Friend, relative or otherwise. Just what I need is a impaired driver or someone dependent on a drug of any type operating my equipment. The risks, in my opinion, far outweigh the benefit of giving one person a job. I’d drive my trucks myself before I would allow anyone with a physical or mental impairment whom relies on a scheduled drug to supposedly maintain their anger management, ability to gain restful sleep etc. I could not, in good conscience, allow an impaired driver behind the wheel hoping that person does not destroy my equipment or even more importantly, destroy a family, because they are not working with 100% faculties. The Federal government would have to put me out of business first, and gladly so before I will allow it to happen. And that is exactly what they will have to do as I will not, under any circumstances live with the knowledge that I hired someone and the “government” made me allow them to drive impaired, even if in a minor way. So, I guess I am saying no matter what the “law” decides it will never happen with my company. Period.

  • John and Danger both fail at reading comprehension — the driver in question does not ingest their medication during work hours, merely before going to sleep.

    Further, I wonder if John or Danger allow their drivers to drink coffee? Caffeine is an addictive drug, factually, a psychoactive stimulant. Just because it has become socially permissible, we ignore the scientific facts of the matter. How many lethal accidents were caused by caffeine-impaired drivers (to use the same reasoning as the mob — how many lethal accidents showed participants with caffeine in their bloodstream?). How about OTC medication such as tylenol or gravol, which is popped like it’s going out of style by most drivers?

    Frankly speaking this is just old-school, knee-jerk reaction from people who haven’t taken the time to crack a book in a long time. I say if the truck technician / driver in question (with experience, no less) wants to work, there’s no reason why not.

    I wonder, if John or Danger ever consume alcohol or caffeine while off duty? If so, I question why drug users like themselves are permitted to work in the industry.

    (Further factually speaking, caffeine impairs drivers on par with / worse than a titrated cannabis dose. Further than that again, caffeine withdrawal (commonplace and fast-attacking) can cause symptoms of pain, distraction, irritability, and other confounding factors which contribute to poor driving, and road rage. Cannabis by extension offers zero physical withdrawal symptoms, and often, none at all. Caffeine and alcohol both produce post-ingestion “hangovers”, cannabis does not.

    Folks, learn the facts.

  • This young man has a lengthy list of diagnosed medical issues, He admits to. ADD,Chronic Pain, Insomnia, and he admits to being asthmatic as well. With the medical examinations required in today’s trucking profession i fail to see where he could pass the medical even if his use of medical marijuana after his hours of work were over. Does he need it to start his work day. I agree many driver,s use OTC medication bottom line if it has sedative effects they know better than to be driving big equipment on the hwy. I wish him the best in all his endeavors.

  • I would not hire this applicant. Even if the studies show that cannabis does not impair driving ability I believe everyone reacts differently to substances and there is no guarantee that the driver would not be impaired. There is a reason drivers are to inform companies when they are on prescriptions that may impair their ability to drive, because it may impair their ability to drive. In a court of law any company would be hard pressed to prove that their driver’s driving ability was not impaired at the time of a accident if he comes up positive.

  • FYI:
    In 2004, Federal Legislation ushered into LAW – Bill C-45 Section 217.1 of the Canadian Criminal Code;
    This law makes “every” employer responsible to provide a safe working environment aka; safe workplace: Coupled with “due diligence” in hiring – multiple factors come into play; Severe financial penalties including jail can result for an employer who is convicted; Recently Saskatchewan has started seizing vehicles that are operated by individuals who choose to drive under the influence. A charge of driving under the influence can and usually is when a certain threshold has been breached; You must understand, you’re body has natural THC which will be raised by the consumption of your medicine.
    Employer’s Perspective:
    Imagine this: You hire an driver who states they ONLY use away from the job. The individual you hire comes with ‘Glowing” recommendations, take’s care of equipment, good psychological profile, 5 years of accident free driving, etc, etc, While you have complete faith in the new hire, the unforeseen factor happens; One foggy morning, another vehicle runs into you and a life is lost. As part of the accident investigation, a blood test reveals that you’re away from work usage of vapourized medicine has put you over the allowable legal threshold which results in a criminal negligence causing death charge. Enter your Workers’ Compensation Board; Many Province’s allow WCB/WSIB the ability to “Fine” the employer for not providing a safe workplace. My experience is that Workers’ Compensation will deliberately with “Wanton Willful Misconduct” falsify + fabricate evidence to blame you for the accident. (Vicarious Liability transferred to your employer)
    I would be very curious to see the paper-work that the insurance corporation supplied to you, stating they have allowed you to drive; While you can protest you were not driving impaired, and because your chronic use has built up a tolerance, requiring more and more to get the same relief. (Same as opioids) The Judge convicts, not only you but you’re employer as well. I truly sympathize with your situation, but legally speaking, I wouldn’t touch you with a 10 Ft Pole. With all this said, “Privacy Laws” are in place to protect you, but if you choose to hide you’re away from work usage, it will only hurt you if some ungodly tragedy were to strike. Peace Out, Hardrive;

    • I think you have very valid points Hardrive. I appreciate that you are open to perhaps in the future (if the laws are ever lightened concerning this tempestuous subject) hiring an individual like this.

  • The drug “issue” would not be the problem for me all the other medical issues this person has would keep me from hiring him. How he legal treats his conditions is not an issue but the list of conditions would cause me concern as this driver could have serious medical conditions on the road in the middle of no where with no one nearby to assist him. That would be the problem.

  • I Drove for a living and I use Marijuana.
    It really has less effect that the opium base pain killers on my driving.
    Some people use hi CBD marijuana with low THC levels, I prefer it for pain because it works as an anti inflammatory fixing the pain unlike painkillers.
    Ibuprofen would work in large doses but I am deathly allergic to it.
    I doubt I would hire him, not sure he could pass the medical. If he were just dealing with chronic pain like I am I would take him.

  • Lives at steak, but a good driving record..ask lawyer advice. Shouldn’t not hire someone who holds pot RX in opinion though. Every day use of any substance greatly increases tolerance, almost certain you would not be able to distinguish between this young man high or sober. Follow the law and your gut. If Christ can give the Jews another chance you can prob find room in your heart to trial this young man out

  • I wish I could speak up about this, but I can’t right now. There is so much more to this this then people know and hopefully, maybe, after March 2nd I can speak up about it. Sincerley, and Honestly, Patti Satok.

  • I am a person who is the transportation industry. I have read this letter to the editor and also the article written about Patti Satok. The first thing I’d like to state is that Patti has no problem having her name published whereas this 26 year old has no name. I find that odd.
    I’d like to touch on a couple points. There is no comparison to someone who suffers from insomnia, ADD and emotional issues to someone who suffers chronic pain from a 1500-lb skid landing on them. I feel for the young mans ailments but there is no reputable doctor who would prescribe a medical marijuana license to someone with these issues and then say it’s ok for them to operate what would be considered a death machine while he is behind the wheel.
    Mr. 26 year old also states that he “smokes some dope” so that he can relax and be level headed the next day for work. I find this hard to believe as he also states and I quote: “I have never consumed before work or while on the job – that’s just stupid, but on my off time I am consistently stoned.” Your off time leads up to the time you are on duty, so then obviously you would be stoned for a part of your on duty time. He also states he vaporizes because of his asthma. ‘Vaporizing’ or using a ‘bong’ is just as harsh or harsher on your lungs even though you are not inhaling the smoke. He also vaporizes because it doesn’t smell like ‘skunk’. He claims that because of this he could vaporize in the cab of his truck without worrying about the smell. So let me get this right…… You don’t smoke while at work because that is just stupid but you would smoke in a company vehicle at night in a rest stop? Even though this would be your required rest period, you are still in a company vehicle ‘vaporizing’ your odourless dope because it’s ok to ‘smoke some dope’ on your off time. Give your head a shake.
    Patti Satok stated when asked if she consumed while driving and I quote: “God, no. I use it at nighttime, after I’m off-duty. If I have pain that’s keeping me awake, then I would. I use it in honey form. I have medical marijuana honey. I don’t sit around puffing doobies and that’s the misconception.”
    The point Patti is trying to make is that she wanted to be treated fairly. She had a prescription just the same as others have prescriptions for oxycontin, morphine etc…and wanted to be treated the same as them. Patti quoted the policy of the company who was denying her employment. It states “the legal use of prescription drugs is permitted on the job, if it doesn’t impair an individual’s ability to effectively perform essential job functions or endanger the safety of others.” Ms. Satok had a legal prescription and she was being discriminated against. The repercussions she has endured due to her use of medical marijuana honey has left her without full-time work in an industry she loves.
    In my honest opinion, comparing Mr. 26 year old and Ms. Patti Satok is like comparing apples to oranges. There is no comparison. Patti does not have any emotional issues but suffers from chronic pain. Patti doesn’t need ‘dope’ to be nice and friendly to customers, to keep her in a good mood, to keep her mind clear to focus on the job at hand or to react to an emergency situation while driving as does the 26 year old.