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Marijuana legalization will create new challenges for fleets


As the anticipated date for legalization of marijuana gets draws closer – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recently flinched on the July 1 date, instead saying sometime in the summer of 2018 – more provinces and territories are announcing their proposed legislations for not only its use, but for new drug impaired driving laws.

Since September, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Quebec have all announced plans for zero-tolerance laws for the presence of marijuana in your system while operating a motor vehicle. At the same time, they have announced tougher penalties for current impaired driving laws, whether impaired by drugs or alcohol.

All jurisdictions have indicated that drivers will be tested at the roadside, with a saliva testing device, which is waiting approval from the federal government. The device will test for the presence of marijuana in a driver’s system, not for impairment.

The stated reason for this is one that is well known, the science is not yet there to determine impairment, nor is the science there to test for the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level in a person’s system that will provide immediate results at roadside.

Which begs the question, why the rush from the feds to legalize marijuana when we have yet to develop the science needed to address the road safety issues this legislation will no doubt create? But I digress. The penalties for the presence of THC vary by jurisdiction; in Ontario for example, the zero-tolerance approach is for commercial vehicle operators and novice drivers only, while indications are Quebec and Saskatchewan will cover all drivers. They will also involve an immediate roadside suspension, of varying lengths, if the proposed legislations pass.

The feds have also weighed in with Bill C-46, which has passed through the second reading of the Senate and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It is expected to become law in early 2018, and has added three Criminal Code convictions for drug impaired driving, ranging from an immediate roadside suspension until court has disposed of the charge, to possible 30-day vehicle seizures and up to 60.

The remaining Canadian jurisdictions are still reviewing data and considering their plans, however you can expect most, if not all, to announce stiffer penalties in advance of the federal legislation on cannabis use being finalized. I expect many to also add zero-tolerance for the presence of marijuana into their legislation.

While the PMTC is in favor of a zero-tolerance approach for the operation of a commercial vehicle, more needs to be done. One of the main reasons for this legislation is to try and remove drivers under the influence of drugs from the road.

Our question is, why not give employers the tools to remove more of these drivers from the road before they ever get to them? In recent years, the PMTC has been lobbying the federal government, as well as the Ontario government, to address workplace safety in their legislation, especially when it comes to safety-sensitive positions.

In a recent meeting with officials from Transport Canada, the PMTC once again requested that it mandate a drug and alcohol testing policy for safety-sensitive positions, similar to the U.S. drug and alcohol testing program.

Canadian drivers entering the U.S. have been subjected to pre-employment, post-accident, random, and reasonable cause testing since the ’90s. This has created an unlevel playing field where drivers who are using drugs will most likely apply for Canada-only driving positions in hopes of slipping under the radar.

This is likely to be exasperated once cannabis use becomes legal here. While it can be argued that companies have the right to develop their own workplace testing policies, and many have, without legislation, these polices come at a significant cost to employers, and are subject to repeated legal challenges, which in some cases dismiss the employer’s right to test.

The government has increased the potential use of drugs on the job, and it is their responsibility to help employers address the public safety issues that result. As an employer, you need to prepare and ensure your polices and procedures address drugs and alcohol in the workplace. While many companies already have zero-tolerance policies, do they lay out the consequences and how it will be addressed? If you haven’t already, review your polices, seek legal advice, and be prepared. In the meantime, we will continue the fight.

***
Mike Millian is president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, the only national association that represents the views and interests of the private fleet industry. He can be reached at trucks@pmtc.ca.


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4 Comments » for Marijuana legalization will create new challenges for fleets
  1. No one should drive impaired, but actual impairment should be measured, and the level of impairment from cannabis that is criminalized should be the same as the level of impairment for the blood alcohol level. I have developed a new public health app that measures actual impairment–it is called DRUID (an acronym for “DRiving Under the Influence of Drugs”) available now in the App Store and in Google Play. DRUID measures reaction time, decision making, hand-eye coordination, time estimation and balance, and then statistically integrates hundreds of data points into an overall impairment score. DRUID takes just 2 minutes.

    NORML of California is promoting DRUID on their website and is encouraging cannabis users to download it.
    Our website is http://www.druidapp.com

    DRUID allows cannabis users (or others who drink alcohol, use prescription drugs, etc.) to self-assess their own level of impairment and (hopefully) decide against driving if they are impaired. Prior to DRUID, there was no way for an individual to accurately assess their own level of impairment. DRUID also demonstrates that it is feasible to measure impairment reliably by the roadside, not just exposure to a drug. It could also be a way for cannabis users who have developed tolerance to show they are unimpaired.

    DRUID was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered: http://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/511595978/can-sobriety-tests-weed-out-drivers-whove-smoked-too-much-weed

    Also on television: http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2017/02/28/science-lags-behind-marijuana-impairment-testing/

    And this past December on Spokane Public Radio: http://nwpr.org/post/progress-made-marijuana-intoxication-measurement-tool-0

    After obtaining my Ph.D. at Harvard, I have been a professor of psychology at UMass/Boston for the past 40 years, specializing in research methods, measurement and statistics.

    Michael Milburn, Professor
    Department of Psychology
    UMass/Boston

  2. Carl Shulgin says:

    Cannabis and driving studies

    June 22, 2017 American Journal of Public Health (ajph) Crash Fatality Rates After Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Washington and Colorado. Evaluate motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first 2 states and compare them with motor vehicle crash fatality rates in similar states without recreational marijuana legalization. Automobile crash fatality rates in Washington and Colorado were no different from comparable states without legal recreational cannabis. http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303848

    2015

    The U.S. Department of Transportation report suggests that while cannabis could potentially impair driving skills, its findings in other research suggest drivers under the influence of cannabis are actually more cautious. “Subjects in most of the simulator and instrumented-vehicle studies on marijuana are driving typically drive slower, follow other cars at greater distances and take fewer risks than when sober,” the report said. http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/812117-Drug_and_Alcohol_Crash_Risk.pdf

    2003 and 2007 Canada Safety Council Drivers under the influence of cannabis are acutely aware of their impairment. They consciously try to drive more cautiously, by slowing down, focusing their attention and avoiding risks.

    Cannabis and impaired driving studies Sept. 2002 – June 2017
    http://calgary420.ca/impaired/#driving or PDF document http://calgary420.ca/pdf/driving/cannabis-impaired-driving-2017.pdf

  3. Carl Shulgin says:

    http://potfacts.ca/it-turns-out-that-smoking-marijuana-may-actually-make-you-a-safer-driver/

    An amazing study authored by professors D. Mark Anderson (University of Montana) and Daniel Rees (University of Colorado) shows that traffic deaths have been reduced in states where medical marijuana is legalized.

    According to their findings, the use of medical marijuana has caused traffic related fatalities to fall by nearly nine percent in states that have legalized medical marijuana (via The Truth About Cars).

    The study notes that this is equal to the effect raising the drinking age to 21 had on reducing traffic fatalities.

    One key factor is the reduction in alcohol consumption. The study finds that there is a direct correlation between the use of marijuana and a reduction in beer sales, especially in the younger folks aged 20-29.

    A drop in beer sales supports the theory that marijuana can act as a substitute for liquor.

    The study also finds that marijuana has the inverse effect that alcohol does on drivers. Drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to make rash decisions and risky moves, whereas those under the influence of marijuana tend to slow down, make safer choices, and increase following distances.
    It Turns Out That Smoking Marijuana May Actually Make You A Safer Driver

    Travis Okulski, Dec. 19, 2011, 10:55 AM

    Stoned drivers are a lot safer than drunk ones, new federal data show

    Studies that factor-in alcohol and demographics found NO INCREASED RISK related to driving after cannabis use

    Cannabis impairment is less severe than impairment from LEGAL alcohol use levels

    A 1983 study by the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that the only significant affect of cannabis use was slower driving – arguably a positive effect of driving high. A comprehensive 1992 NHTSA study revealed that pot is rarely involved in driving accidents, except when combined with alcohol. The study concluded that “the THC-only drivers had an [accident]responsibility rate below that of the drug free drivers.” This study was buried for six years and not released until 1998. A massive 1998 study by the University of Adelaide and Transport South Australia examined blood samples from drivers involved in 2,500 accidents. It found that drivers with only cannabis in their systems were slightly less likely to cause accidents than those without.
    Stoned drivers are safe drivers

  4. Robert Allard says:

    Amazing to see the way countries and governments are contributing to self instinction by now legalising drug pot is one of it they banned cigarettes but now you could smoke pot it will relax you and you become a safer driver if you are stone so what you all think how about doctors doing surgery, airline pilot 300+ passengers, truck drivers, police officers they are all human too,lawyers, judge and many more to finalyse KIDS how about all of this, it does not make sense.

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