Weed, pot, Mary Jane, marijuana, cannabis, grass, herb, bud. Whatever you want to call it, it’s legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
Canada’s Cannabis Act will allow individuals to have, share, and purchase certain amounts of marijuana in its various forms. Legally, individuals will be able possess or share up to 30 grams of dried marijuana and purchase dried or fresh marijuana or cannabis oil from licensed sellers. Individuals will be permitted to grow marijuana plants in their homes and produce certain types of products, under specific circumstances.
But these provisions are not legal everywhere just yet, and marijuana is not legal in the U.S. at the federal level. Because marijuana isn’t legal everywhere, it’s sure to pose issues for Canada-based motor carriers with drivers who operate into the United States. Canadian-based carriers with drivers staying solely in Canada will have their own sets of challenges, too.
Operating in Canada
Motor carriers with commercial drivers who operate solely in Canada are not mandated to perform drug screens. This doesn’t mean that driving under the influence is without consequence, though.
Law enforcement personnel realize that impaired driving, for the motoring public in general, may be an issue long after the Cannabis Act is in effect.
Preparing for the new rule to hit, officers received training on detecting drug-impaired driving and administering standard field sobriety tests. A drug recognition expert evaluation, which may include a series of tests and a blood or urine sample for toxicology, is also an option for Canadian police. If officers suspect an offense, they can request an oral fluid sample or blood sample.
Additionally, motor carriers may have workplace policies surrounding drug use during work hours. These policies will likely need to be updated to accommodate the recreational legalization of marijuana and clearly state that impairment of any sort is prohibited during work hours. Assistance from an attorney may be needed to ensure that all angles of workplace drug use are addressed, particularly in the areas of employee privacy and disability accommodations for those who are addicted.
Operating in the U.S.
Marijuana-related legalization may pose additional problems for Canadian-based carriers operating into the United States and subject to the U.S. motor carrier drug and alcohol testing requirements, especially if drivers aren’t aware of U.S. rules.
U.S. DOT-regulated carriers are subject to the U.S. commercial vehicle drug and alcohol testing requirements. So carriers must ensure that drivers adhere to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), including prohibitions against any use of a Schedule I drug — including marijuana.
Under 49 CFR Section 40.137 a medical review officers can’t view marijuana as having any legitimate use when it comes to determining an official result for a DOT-required test, even if the substance is legally obtained in Canada. A positive test results is simply a positive test.
Commercial drivers operating in the U.S. simply cannot use or possess a Schedule 1 drug. If marijuana is found during a roadside inspection, the driver and carrier will be cited with an out-of-service order. Drivers will also be placed out of service for 24 hours.
Drivers will also be disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle, although the length of time will depend on whether the driver has any previous disqualifying traffic convictions.
Crossing the border
Attempting to cross international borders with marijuana is a major no-no. Both U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have issued information detailing their cross-border prohibitions. The CBSA’s motto: Don’t bring it in. Don’t take it out.
Even if a driver attempted to enter the United States into states like Vermont, Maine, or Washington — where marijuana is legal — U.S. Customs will deny entry because marijuana is illegal under federal law, CBP says. Attempting to cross the border with marijuana can result in seizure, fines, or arrest, and may affect a driver’s admissibility into the U.S.
Awareness is key
The legal status of marijuana in Canada and the United States should be clearly communicated to drivers. Are they subject to U.S. drug and alcohol testing and using marijuana while a “tourist”? That’s a violation. Using marijuana on the job? No way. Attempting to cross the border with it? Not allowed. Operating under the influence? Nope.
The circumstances surrounding the use don’t change the fact that using marijuana isn’t allowed, even if it’s legal in the jurisdiction where it’s being used or possessed.