Canadian flight crews and other airline industry employees are now prohibited from using cannabis for at least 28 days before going on duty, according to a new policy announced Thursday by Transport Canada, the country’s federal transportation system regulator. The new policy goes into effect immediately and applies to pilots, cabin crew, and air traffic controllers. Transport Canada issued the new regulations to clarify the agency’s policy following October’s legalization of cannabis in Canada after the passage of Bill C-45 last year.
Transport Canada said that airline industry employees must maintain a certain level of “fitness for duty” at all times while working, according to a report from the CBC. Workers must therefore not use or be “under the influence of any drug that impairs the person’s faculties to the extent that aviation safety is affected,” the agency said.
Commercial airlines in the country including Air Canada and Westjet have already banned employees in safety-sensitive jobs from using cannabis, even when they are off duty. A spokesperson for Westjet explained the company’s policy on Thursday.
“Our policy reflects our reputation as an industry leader in safety and our expectations that WestJetters report fit for duty and remain fit for duty at work,” the spokesperson said.
Mounties and Military Face Similar Rules
Transport Canada added that the new policy was “aligned with the best available science” and is similar to new policies developed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence after the legalization of cannabis.
Under military rules, Canadian Air Force members who choose to use recreational cannabis are prohibited from doing so within eight hours of any duty shift. Cannabis may not be consumed within 24 hours of duty that includes the operation of vehicles or weapons. Marijuana use is also banned within 28 days of high-altitude parachuting, serving on a military aircraft, or operating in a hyperbaric environment.
In October, the RCMP announced a similar policy, stating that “employees in safety-sensitive positions must refrain from using non-medicinal cannabis 28 days prior to reporting to work.”
Union leaders representing Canadian police planned to review the policy to ensure it complied with collective bargaining agreements.
“It’s effectively an outright prohibition,” said Tom Stamatakis, the president of the Canadian Police Association of the RCMP policy on cannabis use.
“Effectively what they’re saying is, we don’t trust police officers to make the right decision when it comes to reporting for work fit for duty,” said Stamatakis. “And I just find that to be an offensive approach.