Some Air Canada staff to be banned from using cannabis while off duty

The tail of the newly revealed Air Canada Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft is seen at a hangar at the Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, February 9, 2017. The Canadian Press

Pilots, cabin crew, flight dispatchers and aircraft maintenance employees are among Air Canada staff who won’t be able to use cannabis whether on or off-duty once it’s legalized in a few weeks.

In a statement sent to Global News on Friday, Air Canada said the safety of customers and employees is the airline’s top priority.

“Employees working in safety-critical areas at the company, including flight operations and aircraft maintenance, will be prohibited from using cannabis and cannabis products at all times, both on-duty and off-duty,” the statement reads.

The remaining staff not covered by the policy are banned from using cannabis while on duty or at their workplace.

“We are acting out of an abundance of caution based on current understanding of the effects of these drugs, including their after-effects and the potential they can linger in the human system,” Air Canada said.

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The Montreal-based airline said the policy was put in place based on the current understanding of the effects of cannabis. It said it will regularly review and update the policy if needed.

Labour lawyer Micah Kowalchuk said the policy is similar to that of many organizations across the country now trying to navigate the “brave new world” of dealing with legal recreational marijuana.

“Especially since the science, as far as testing and determining the consequences, isn’t nearly as established as it is with alcohol,” Kowalchuk said.

Kowalchuk said there has been a policy in place pertaining to medical marijuana use for some time, much of which surrounded the human rights of those who use it.

He added that some jobs have been modified for that reason, but it’s hard to say how that will factor in when it comes to recreational marijuana.

Air Canada joins other organizations that have banned cannabis use for staff outside of work hours.

The Calgary Police Service has put a policy in place that prohibits any officer who is qualified to use a handgun and is available for duty from consuming cannabis at any time.

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On Friday, Calgary-based WestJet said it’s planning to release its updated cannabis policy next week.

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