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Butler: Update Your Alcohol and Drug Policy

Carriers who don’t have a policy in place for how to address and deal with employees who use medical marijuana or plan on using marijuana recreationally once the federal Liberal government introduces its plan to legalize the drug, need to get one and fast.

That was the message from Barbara Butler, president of Barbara Butler and Associates, a firm that specializes in workplace drug and alcohol policies, at the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association’s transportation summit recently.

“Once you find out your driver is using marijuana…you’re going to have to make a decision,” Truck News Reported Butler as saying. “Can you let this person work for you? Can you relocate them in the company? You need to decide because they certainly can’t keep driving trucks, that’s for sure.”

Butler said that when creating a policy, ensure it is as clear as possible for employees and make sure your employees know his/her expectations.

“Make sure you have a clear policy in place,” she said. “And make sure you’re very clear about your expectations…because employees should be expected, not encouraged, to consult with their doctor or pharmacist regarding the side effects of any medication.”

She said putting the onus on the driver to consult their doctor about all medication is important when developing a policy because often, doctors will authorize the use of medical marijuana without knowing his/her patient works in a safety sensitive environment.

Butler also advised that once a policy is put in place at your company, to hire or assign a program administrator, who is the liaison between the company and the medical center for test results. The administrator is the primary source for the company to answer questions regarding the policy, maintaining all records and ensuring proper communication with all employees, explained Butler.

And if you’re one of the fleets in Canada who already has a plan in place, Butler said to make sure you are dealing with every case consistently, and are reviewing your policy on a regular basis to keep up with legislation.

Of course, having a policy in place is to ensure that your fleet is operating as safely as possible, but also is vital to avoiding a human rights complaint. Butler explained that employers have a duty to accommodate a medical condition (until undue hardship), but not necessarily their choice in drug. Therefore the company should also have a plan in place that sets out what your fleet will do in the event that an employee fails a drug test due to medical marijuana use, or admits to using medical marijuana.

“Impaired driving concerns are just one part of the broader complexities of legalization…,” Butler said adding that at the end of the day, “for an employer not to have a policy in place means they are not being diligent.”

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