Translink drug testing leads to public safety versus personal freedom debate

Erin Laforet / November 6, 2019

Translink sites public safety as the reason for random drug testing of an employee.
(@ShelteringGrace / Twitter)

“people who are in what we would consider to be in safety sensitive work environments. Certainly around operating heavy machinery, like a bus driver or a pilot for instance. You’d want to see an extended period of time between consumption and any kind of employment activity that can put safety at risk potentially.”

That being said, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2013 that

“the fact a workplace is found to be dangerous does not automatically give the employer the right to impose random testing unilaterally”.

Trace amounts of cannabis can stay in the body long past the short-term effects and are not a good indication of whether an employee is under the influence; especially when compared to how alcohol is metabolized.

Hollett says the prohibition around cannabis is more of a cultural reaction and not linked to research.

“Policies should be done thoughtfully and based on evidence. What we know right now is that’s not what’s happening. There’s almost an approach of abstinence which we know is not realistic or reflective of the evidence that’s around cannabis impairment.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is battling Translink after an employee was subjected to random drug testing after cannabis was found in his system during a medical exam. Though Translink has been ordered to stop random testing, questions remain what is the appropriate policy for employees who want to enjoy a now legal substance in their time off.

The Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines produced by researchers at the University of Toronto says it will take 4-6 hours before the psychoactive elements of cannabis leaves your system. Kevin Hollett, Associate Director of Communications for the BC Centre on Substance Use, says these guidelines are meant for,

(Taya Fast / BCIT News)

As it stands, TransLink​​​​​​’s employee policy doesn’t prohibit employees from using cannabis outside of work hours. Hollett believes that if Translink would like workers to be conservative in their use of cannabis, that employees should not consume cannabis within a 12 hour window of their next shift. It is also important to customize the policies based on the worker’s duties and not just a blanket policy.