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Cannabis is Now Legal. What this Means for the Transportation Industry

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At 12:01 am, on Wednesday, October 17th 2018, the possession and consumption of cannabis became legal in Canada. The Liberal Party of Canada has been pushing for the legalization of marijuana for quite some time, and now that the Cannabis Act is in effect, many Canadian logistics companies are wondering how this will affect the transportation industry.
What We Know About the Cannabis Act
The prohibition of cannabis was first put in place in 1923, making the legalization of marijuana a dramatic move by the Canadian government. Every province and territory has established different laws, however, in regards to the consumption and acquisition of the product. In Ontario, and most of the provinces and territories, the legal purchasing age is nineteen. Interestingly, Alberta and Quebec have set themselves apart by lowering the legal age to eighteen. Ontarian's can only purchase marijuana from Government-operated online stores, but this differs between provinces and territories as well. One regulation that has been adopted coast to coast is the public possession limit, which is currently set to 30 grams per person. Public consumption of marijuana, however, is still being determined as by-laws are being put in place. Many are appropriating the regulations of current tobacco laws, in that the product cannot be smoked inside or within a certain distance of public buildings and so forth.
With all of the discussion regarding the legalization of marijuana in Canada, the United States has made their position known, despite the fact that several states have welcomed the use of recreational weed before their northern neighbours. Canadians who attempt to cross the U.S. border will now have to state if they have ever smoked marijuana recreationally. If the answer is, “Yes,” they can be denied entry to the United States and even be banned for life. With these rules and regulations in place, what does it mean for Canadian companies who transport the product, and the individuals who consume it?
Transporting Cannabis
With the USMCA officially in place and trade amongst our neighbours to the south continuing, the legalization of marijuana is now a concern that trucking companies need to discuss with their driver’s. The United States has made it clear that anyone who consumes the product will not be able to cross the border, and regulations remain in place that cannabis cannot be transported into the United States. With differing laws between provinces and territories to consider as well, truck drivers who are being paid to transport the product need to be made aware of the limitations that they may face.
Hard questions are being asked, such as;
1.) Are trucks that have carried cannabis products previously, allowed to enter the United States if it is no longer onboard?
2.) Do shipments between provinces and territories require additional monitoring or packaging?
3.) Do increased security measures need to be put in place for companies who are responsible for the transportation of this drug?
We are sure more questions will be raised as cannabis shipments increase and impact the industry.
Consuming Cannabis
While every company is responsible for implementing policies in regards to cannabis use during work hours, trucking companies are struggling with the regulations as very little has been put in place in regards to testing for drug use while driving. Technically, a commercial vehicle is an extension of the workplace, meaning that by regulations set out by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, cannabis also cannot be consumed in the workplace. Furthermore, it remains illegal to drive while under the influence. This is where the trucking industry will struggle most in ensuring that driver’s stay safe while operating their rigs.
“We're going to legalize it? Oh boy, now what are we going to do?” he says, “You've got someone going down the highway with 80 to 100,000 pounds behind them, travelling at 105 km/hour and half stoned or fully stoned.” -Marc Morris, North American Transport Driving Academy Instructor.
Where do companies draw the line? That is the big question. Many organizations, companies, and law enforcement agencies have established that employees cannot consume recreational cannabis at any time, even if off duty or on vacation, while other companies are being more lenient. This is an issue that transportation companies need to address as truck driver’s under their employ must know the standards they need to meet to remain on payroll.
Testing for Drug Use
Roadside testing also remains to be a concern. Law enforcement officials have been utilizing the “standardized field sobriety test” to determine if individuals are intoxicated. While many are claiming that they will continue to use this system to determine if individuals are high, another testing device has been introduced. The Dräger DrugTest 5000, which will “[allow] officers to test driver’s saliva for THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.” It is the only device that has been approved by Ottawa, but many more are being proposed.
The United States Department of Transportation and The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration governs official Drug and Alcohol Testing protocols. The testing of drivers must be put in place by employers, however, at government approved laboratories and testing sites. According to Drug and Alcohol Testing protocols, driver’s are subject to the testing of drug use pre-employment, as well as during duty, upon suspicion, post-accident, and so forth. Standard testing is generally completed through urinalysis, but The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security is requesting that hair testing be made mandatory. As evidence of drug use can be detected for up to 90 days in a hair exam, opioids can be flushed out of the body only a few hours after use, making a urinalysis an imperfect form of testing in many cases. Truck drivers entering into the United States from Canada must submit to the testing of recreational drug use if operating a commercial vehicle as well.
Just like the ELD Mandate and the introduction of the USMCA, the legalization of cannabis is bringing changes to the industry and will continue to do so for years to come. No one knows how the legalization of marijuana will genuinely impact the logistics and transportation industries, but companies in these sectors need to set the tone for how Canada will move forward in reintroducing a product to the open market that has not been in play for ninety-five years.