The Canadian trucking industry is beginning to wake up to the fact that marijuana use – legally or otherwise – among truck drivers is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Even before Justin Trudeau won the federal election in October, having already hinted at the complete legalization of marijuana, Canadians have been using marijuana for medical reasons in increasing numbers. In fact, Health Canada projects 450,000 Canadians will be using medical marijuana by 2024. If you don’t think there’ll be truck drivers among them, you’re smoking something more potent than pot.
If you think your truck drivers won’t be among them, well, what have you done to ensure that?
The guidelines around the use of of medical marijuana in Canada are hazy at best. (In the US they’re black and white – don’t do it. US regulations categorize marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic regardless of whether or not a doctor approves).
But what about domestic drivers in Canada? Should they be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle when using medical marijuana while off-duty? The College of Family Physicians of Canada says patients shouldn’t drive until more than four hours have passed since inhalation. But Health Canada says impairment can last up to 24 hours. So what gives?
Employment laws in Canada tend to favour the employee. If a driver tells you he or she is using prescription marijuana while off-duty, do you allow that driver to continue driving within Canada or do you give them a desk job? Do you have enough desk jobs available? If you fire them outright, you may have a human rights complaint on your hands.
To further complicate matters, there’s currently no test available that measures impairment. Tests in use today only determine past use.
If Trudeau comes through with his plan to legalize marijuana, recreational use could soar as well. You may see a surge of applications for domestic driving jobs while fewer are prepared to run cross-border, depending on how these drivers like to spend their weekends. Recently, the Private Motor Truck Council held two seminars that explored this issue in detail, featuring Dr. Barry Kurtzer of DriverCheck. You can read a wrap-up of his seminar from Truro, N.S. on pg. 26.
The key take-away was, your company needs to develop and implement a medical marijuana policy. And it should be developed with the input of qualified legal counsel.
Whether or not you agree with the use of marijuana is beside the point. Its use is going to increase – both medically and recreationally – and some clear guidelines need to be in place. And don’t look to the government or medical authorities for clarity. Trying to sort through the vague and often contradictory guidance from bodies such as Health Canada and The College of Family Physicians will leave you feeling dazed and confused.
James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JamesMenzies