File photo by Advocate staff

Some central Alberta bus drivers face zero tolerance for cannabis

While Canada’s transportation regulator tells flight crews to stay off weed for 28 days before reporting to work, some bus drivers in central Alberta have to avoid cannabis completely.

Transport Canada recently announced Canadian airline and flight crew will have to stay off weed for 28 days before resuming their duties.

Prairie Lines, a company that operates buses in central Alberta, has its own mandate: a zero tolerance policy.

The bus service transports about 5,000 children to classes in central Alberta on school days and operates coach buses within Canada and in the U.S.

The company conducts a pre-screen drug and alcohol test before a driver is trained and hired.

The company also conducts random drug testing for those already working for the company. If the results are positive, it is very likely the driver would be terminated, says general manager Scott Hucal.

“We don’t put a time frame on it. Either you’re impaired or you’re not impaired,” he said of the company’s policy.

Drivers of coach buses that travel to the U.S. have to take a test before taking the job, something that’s governed by law, Hucal said. But there’s no such law for driving within Canada.

He believes some cannabis-related policies may change in the future. Using an example, Hucal said it’s possible that someone will show positive for cannabis, even if they haven’t consumed it for two weeks, because it stays in a person’s system for a while.

“So is that person impaired? So we have a zero tolerance level right now and that person would be terminated, but some of these things may be challenged in court going down the road,” he said.

There’s another grey area in the medical marijuana industry. Some of those products have low THC, high CBD medical marijuana, he pointed out.

“It’s such a new horizon, but in the end, because we’re transporting students and adults – we have a zero tolerance level,” he said.

Prairie Bus Lines may also ask drivers to be tested if there’s just cause. This is something the City of Red Deer may also ask its drivers, if, for example, they were involved in a collision.

Greg LeBlanc, senior HR programs adviser with the City of Red Deer, said it does not conduct pre-screening prior to employment or random drug tests.

But it may ask drivers, who are considered to be in a safety sensitive position, to participate in a test when “there’s reasonable grounds for testing that worker, so something obviously indicates that the person may be impaired,” explained LeBlanc.

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