As Ottawa prepares to legalize marijuana next year, the Ontario Trucking Association once again urged its provincial government to ensure zero tolerance enforcement for all truck drivers while allowing employers of safety sensitive workers to conduct comprehensive workplace drug testing.

In a submission this week to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, OTA laid out the potential impacts of both recreational and medicinal marijuana legalization on the trucking industry.

“Ontario truck drivers have an exemplary safety record and are statistically far less likely to be driving while impaired than all other vehicle drivers – and we’d like to keep it that way,” says OTA president Stephen Laskowski. “Legalization will carry greater risks for motor carriers and we are asking for the necessary tools to mitigate that risk.”

OTA supports a strict approach that ensures all six classes of commercial driver’s licenses and G class drivers operating commercial vehicles are included in a zero-tolerance policy.

Furthermore, OTA is asking the government to follow the U.S. approach of not differentiating between recreational and medical use of marijuana among drivers.

“If the true goal is public safety for all road users then it shouldn’t matter whether it’s being used for recreational or medicinal purposes,” says Laskowski. “Commercial drivers are already held to the highest standards of safety and this shouldn’t be any different.”

It has already become an industry standard for trucking companies to take proactive steps to ensure drivers are fit for duty and not operating under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. However, employers must be able to ensure public safety by implementing drug and alcohol testing policies without being at risk of human rights challenges.

“It is imperative employers be allowed to apply workplace measures that will mitigate additional safety risks to employees and the public that legalized marijuana could bring,” says Laskowski, who points out the U.S. has virtually eliminated drug and alcohol concerns by providing employers the tools to manage the issue. “It is essential Ontario and Canada provide employers legislative and regulatory backing for being proactive and doing the right thing.”

OTA says it looks forward to the government’s response and will continue working with the Canadian Trucking Alliance to spread a similar message across Canada.

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