28 days of no cannabis required for Canadian flight crews

Jul 11, 2019

Following the legalization of recreational use of cannabis in October 2018, Transport Canada launched a review of its policies on impairment. According to the new policy implemented by the agency, employees are forbidden from work while “under the influence of any drug,” including cannabis. As part of this new rule, members of the Canadian aviation industry are prohibited from consuming cannabis for at least 28 days before going on duty. These new rules on cannabis use will apply to in-flight crew, as well as to air traffic control workers.

“It is illegal to pilot an aircraft while under the influence of cannabis… Cannabis can impair a person’s capacity to pilot any type of aircraft in a safe manner and thus can endanger lives and lead to property loss,” said the agency. And, according to Transport Canada, four weeks is the minimum time required to be free of cannabis before being allowed to work.

“The use of cannabis is a disqualifying factor for obtaining a medical certificate to fly or control aircraft… The Canadian Aviation Regulations provide that all members of a flight crew, such as pilots, are prohibited from working while using any drug (legal or illegal) that impairs faculties to the extent that the safety of the aircraft or people on board is endangered in any way. The definition of a drug includes cannabis and, therefore, these regulations continue to apply regardless of the Cannabis Act in force.”

From the Transport Canada website

According to Transport Canada, the new rules are in line with the regulations established by the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their workers, and are already in effect.

Despite it being possible for traces of cannabis to remain detectable in humans for months, impairment typically only lasts for several hours and its extent depends on several factors (e.g. metabolic factors of the person, amount of THC in the cannabis). In contrast to the new rules established by Transport Canada, the Canadian military prohibits its members from consuming cannabis for eight hours prior to being on duty, and requires 24 hours of sobriety if operating weapons or vehicles, and 28 days for operating a military aircraft.

Transport Canada has also indicated the implementation of a medical protocol and testing regime in order to evaluate impairment in the workplace. According to a statement released by the agency, Canadian medical certificate holders with a known diagnosis of substance abuse may be subject to no-notice drug and alcohol testing to ensure compliance with the abstinence provisions of their certificate.