On October 17, 2018, Canada legalized marijuana sales nationwide. Photo: Public Domain

On October 17, 2018, Canada legalized marijuana sales nationwide. Photo: Public Domain

As cannabis becomes legal for recreational consumption in Canada, the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) calls on the federal government to establish clear rules to permit transit systems to randomly test employees who work in safety-sensitive positions for substance impairment, where necessary. Random testing would serve as an additional tool for transit systems to reinforce safety in public transport and urban mobility across the country, according to the association.

CUTA, its members and other Canadian stakeholder organizations have raised awareness of the potential safety risks inherent to cannabis legalization with the federal government, and have advocated for federal rules to permit random testing. To date, Canada has declined to follow the lead of other countries, including the U.S., U.K., and Australia, which permit or require this practice in the interests of public safety.

CUTA provided evidence to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice1 in late September 2017, calling on the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to establish clear mechanisms to promote security in public transport post-legalization.

“Canada lags behind other jurisdictions on this important issue,” stressed Marco D’Angelo, President and CEO of CUTA. “We believe that the federal government should take a leadership role in establishing mechanisms to permit random drug and alcohol testing for safety critical industries such as transit. The government should work with the provinces and territories to facilitate regional solutions to protect public safety. Our members will closely monitor the impacts of cannabis legalization on operations and continue to work with employees to ensure a safe transition to this new regulatory reality.”

Some CUTA members have prepared for the cannabis legalization news by introducing their own policies to randomly check and/or test for cannabis consumption among all employees in safety-sensitive positions. The objective of random testing is to deter impairment in the workplace, and to identify those rare situations where an employee’s faculties and judgment are impaired, according to officials.

“There is no doubt that the vast majority of Canadian transit employees, including operators, mechanics, supervisors, engineers and managers, would never carry out their professional duties while under the influence of cannabis,” said Marco D’Angelo. “Though this situation would be the exception to the norm, our philosophy is that one incident is one too many. CUTA calls on governments to cooperate closely and establish rules that empower transit systems to continue to operate safe public transport in our communities.”

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