Now that Canada has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, professional truck drivers plying highways on both sides of the border are reminded that trucking in North America is still a “zero tolerance” industry.
That’s according to Garth Pitzel, who is director of safety and driver development for Canada-based Bison Transport, a safety award winner for many years.
Neither is Bison going to be involved in transporting cannabis or its derivative products, Pitzel said. “We’re not going to get involved in that; we’ll not jeopardize our employees. A fellow [in another company] was banned from the U.S. for life because he was involved in the cannabis business in Canada.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is warning travelers that pot remains an illegal narcotic in the U.S., noted Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operator Business Association of Canada (OBAC).
And, she told The Trucker, although Canada has no federal/provincial labor rules on drug and alcohol testing outside the military because of privacy issues, “most workplaces, including trucking companies, have their own policies around the use of drugs and alcohol, including an obligation to follow U.S. rules when in the U.S.
“Leading up to pot legalization in Canada there was a lot of emphasis on making sure the trucking industry was ready with updated policies in place.”
In Canada, she said, local provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions. They’re also responsible for how roadside inspections are conducted, with drug-impaired driving offenses treated the same as driving alcohol-impaired, meaning zero tolerance for novice drivers, young drivers up to 22 years of age and commercial drivers.
So far in Canada, Ritchie said, the only federally approved device for testing THC, the psychoactive agent in pot, is roadside saliva testing, which shows if cannabis was consumed in the last 12 hours.
“The issue of roadside drug-testing is still under debate,” Ritchie said. “Most police forces are planning to keep it ‘business as usual’ with sobriety field tests at roadside, but it’s less clear which jurisdictions will be using oral screening devices.”
Unlike tests for alcohol intoxication, the saliva tests don’t show the level of cannabis impairment, according to Pitzel.
He said Canada’s national policy says a person is allowed only so much cannabis in their possession and provisional jurisdictions break it down further as to where cannabis can be consumed, which doesn’t include public places.
“The provinces really clamped down; you can’t do it in any public spots so it’s really only [allowed] in your house,” he said.
There are a lot of professional truck drivers on the roads who are at risk of other drivers’ impairment, Pitzel said, “and we want to make sure they [truckers] get home safely as far as training and procedures.”
He added that penalties for driving while drunk have increased but not for driving while impaired by cannabis.
News sources report Canada law enforcement are wrestling with the sale and consumption of cannabis edible products, such as candy or bakery items infused with cannabis. Those kinds of items are attractive to children but can contain amounts of THC which can be harmful to them.
“One complication is that unlike alcohol, there is no clear consensus on what constitutes marijuana impairment,” Ritchie said, “and current testing methods such as urine and blood tests can be misleading since THC can linger in the body for days or weeks. So the test indicates only prior consumption, not current impairment.”
In short, she said, “it’s not a straightforward issue.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.