Photo: BriYYZ

MIAMI — Canadian transportation administrators issued the final and most recent ruling regarding cannabis use for airside-sensitive employees after months of debate, data collection, and speculation by media since Bill C-45 became legal nationwide in October 2018.

Offering up the blunt response Thursday, Transport Canada (TC) “implemented a new policy prohibiting flight crews and flight controllers from consuming cannabis for at least 28 days before being on duty.”

The four-week rule was not taken lightly. The federal regulator “undertook extensive policy review and consultations” to determine the most practical mechanism to ensure the overall safety of staff working and clientele traveling on aircraft, Transport Canada told Airways.

Photo: Jiaqian

Adopting existing fit-for-duty practice but also positioned on “key scientific studies, including Pharmacokinetics,” the study of how our anatomy absorbs, metabolizes, and excretes drugs (e.g. half-life) from the human body, all pilots, crew members, air traffic controllers, and aviation mechanics cannot work while under the influence of any substance that impairs performance.

The policy change is aligned with the “best available science,” and coincides with other federally safety-centered departments, such the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 28-day policy, the Department of Defense’s eight-hour consumption-ban prior to general duty, the 24 hours before handling weapons or operating a vehicle ban, and 28-days before serving on military aircraft.

Straying slightly from the guidelines outlined for the Canadian Armed Forces, the National Transportation Board added an additional layer of protection for those taking to the skies but without getting high, and included a caveat on marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Photo: Daniel from Glasgow

“Medical certificates holders may not exercise the privileges of a permit, license, or rating, if they have not been abstinent from cannabis use for at least 28 days,” the administration told Airways, noting that the general rule of thumb for those accustomed to carrying “an official medical script on their person” excludes operational aircraft staff.

Canada’s two largest carriers, Air Canada and WestJet, have somewhat of a carte-blanche when it comes to airside-sensitive jobs, and Transport Canada “does not prevent Air Operators from implementing more stringent prohibitions for their employees.”

Both airlines have extended an outright ban to include aircraft maintenance personnel and dispatchers, even while off-duty, after evaluating the substantial human cost and liability involved.

“Transport Canada already has rigorous measures in place to ensure that flight crew and controllers are fit to fly,” they said in a statement to Airways. “The 28-day cannabis prohibition policy ensures that they will continue to meet the requirements to be fit for duty at the time of medical certification and before reporting for every duty period.”