As marijuana is set to be legalized in Canada by July 2018, and in spite of the employment laws and human rights legislation currently supported by the federal government and its proposed standards for legal marijuana use, Canada’s trucking industry is pushing for a zero-tolerance for marijuana impairment while driving.
[Professional drivers] are sharing their workplace with the public, so the standards they’re required to meet should be higher than the average person operating a passenger vehicle because the consequences of them being impaired [are higher].
– Louise Yako, CEO of the B.C. Trucking Association
In its legislation, the federal government has proposed that roadside police officers use saliva tests to determine grounds for more definitive testing, and has categorized impairment offences as follows:
- THC of more than two, but less than five, nanograms per millilitre of blood will be a summary offence.
- THC content of more than five nanograms per millilitre of blood will be a hybrid offence, allowing prosecutors to approach the incident as a more serious crime.
After marijuana was legalized in Washington State, the number of fatal crashes in which drivers tested positive for marijuana doubled in one year, and B.C. medical professionals have taken note and have raised concerns for the fate of Canadian drivers in forthcoming years under the new federal legislation.
“For professional drivers,” Yako says, when discussing impairment standards of marijuana, “we’re recommending that it be zero.”
The Canadian Trucking Association cites the less obvious signs of impairment in marijuana and the absence of definitive roadside testing for the drug as their main concerns regarding the more lenient legislation proposed by the federal government.
In addition to a zero-tolerance impairment policy, trucking companies are also pushing to conduct random drug testing for employees in both on-the-job and pre-employment screening, just as drivers in the US are required to do.
But without hard evidence to back up the risks of driving while under the influence of marijuana, creating company policies and standards on the issue will be difficult.
“The key thing is that employers must have a reasonable basis to back up [their] position,” says employment lawyer Cindy Zheng. “You can’t just say, ‘People who get high are inherently dangerous, so you’re going to have mandatory testing.’”
To protect the safety of their workers and those with whom their workers interact, Zheng suggests that employers establish clear policies concerning legal and illegal substances in the workplace (including alcohol, marijuana, and prescription as well as non-prescription drugs), provide education for employees and employers to outline rights and responsibilities in the workplace, and establish a system to help employees recover from addiction when necessary.