Legalization of cannabis: the importance of policy for carriers

Jan 25, 2019

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The legalization of cannabis in Canada in October has attracted a lot of attention. Carriers have had to create or revise their policies regarding drugs and alcohol to make sure they met legal obligations. Lawyer Shelley Brown was invited to discuss the topic at the ISAAC Leadership Summit, attended by transportation industry leaders. In his talk, he explained that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. This means that carriers must develop, implement and administer a clear policy, with legal assistance, so their employees know what to expect in terms of prohibited consumption in the course of their work. In general terms, such policies should contain these four major points:

1. General prohibition

In order to minimize the risk of serious accidents caused by worker impairment, the internal policy must clearly state the prohibition of alcohol, cannabis, and other substances that affect the ability to fulfill one’s professional duties.

2. Obligations related to certain specific positions

Critical positions that can jeopardize public safety should also be identified, along with specific bans for these positions. These could include drivers and mechanics, as well as any other job where the consumption of drugs or alcohol could translate into an inability to fulfill one’s duties safely.

3. Support process and performance assessment procedures

Given the possibility that workers may require accommodation related to medicinal consumption or dependence, whether associated with recreational use or medical need, carriers must show good faith and comply with that request. Employers must set out support and assessment procedures such as performance evaluations before taking set disciplinary measures for recurrence.

4. Determine disciplinary measures

The policy should also include the possibility for employers to terminate employees in non-safety-sensitive positions when the latter have shown the inability to fulfill their duties due to the consumption of prohibited substances, despite an initial warning and initiating progressive discipline.

Protect yourself with safety and recording systems

Mr. Brown reiterated that the issue is not to determine whether cannabis, other drugs or alcohol was consumed, but whether said consumption impaired the worker to the point safety requirements were compromised. Carriers should, therefore, do everything legally allowed to ensure every protective measure is in place, including equipping fleets with the best available safety measures and equipment or by integrating solutions to help document accidents. This will assist in determining the real causes of an accident and help limit liability if they have made every effort to minimize risks.

To learn more about how to monitor your drivers’ behavior on the road, contact our team!

If you have follow-up questions or need help in formulating policies, you can contact Mr. Shelley Brown directly:
416-225-2777 (Ext. 231) or sbrown@sthilaw.com

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