Zero tolerance of cannabis use for central Alberta bus drivers

One Alberta bus company, Prairie Lines, has banned its employees from consuming cannabis altogether, even when they are on a vacation. As part of this zero-tolerance policy on cannabis consumption, applicants for job posts with the bus line are screened for unauthorized drug and alcohol use before being hired and beginning the training process. 

Moreover, random drug tests are also conducted on current employees of the bus line throughout the year. The bus service offered by Prairie Lines transports approximately 5,000 children to classes in central Alberta during the school week, and also operates coach buses in Canada and the U.S.

In his interview with the Red Deer Advocate, Scott Hucal, the general manager of Prairie Lines said, “We don’t put a time frame on it. Either you’re impaired or you’re not impaired” when explaining that employees who fail the test would likely be terminated. Hucal said that while it is possible to test positive for cannabis, even after not consuming it for two weeks because it stays in the body, the company’s policy remains strict. “So is that person impaired? So we have a zero tolerance level right now and that person would be terminated, but some of these things may be challenged in court going down the road,” he added.

“Employee testing should be job specific: it should only be used when impairment is directly related to an employee’s ability to carry out job duties safely… A decision to begin testing employees must weigh the protection of individual rights and freedoms against the potential benefits in terms of health and safety.”

Guidelines for employers provided by Alberta Health Services,

Although there is currently no legislation that explicitly prohibits pre-employment testing in Alberta, rejecting an applicant due to a failed drug test could be considered a violation of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Act. According to the Act, “It is discriminatory to test potential or existing employees for drug and alcohol use if the testing is not reasonable and justifiable… There is a duty to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace, up to the point of undue hardship. Drug and alcohol dependency, whether perceived or real, fall within the meaning of disability under the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.”

The medical cannabis industry presents another grey area to drug testing for Prairie Lines, said Hucal, including products which contain low THC and high CBD content. “It’s such a new horizon, but in the end, because we’re transporting students and adults – we have a zero tolerance level,” he added.

Transport Canada also recently announced that Canadian airline and flight crews will need to abstain from using cannabis for 28 days before starting work. Similarly, Toronto’s Metrolinx implemented a strict new anti-cannabis policy, banning recreational use by its employees or contractors in nearly 140 jobs considered as “safety-critical.”

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