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.
Want to read more about medical marijuana and trucking?:
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies