As Canada starts the business of implementing legalisation of cannabis in reference to the workplace, a safety bulletin has been published by the government underlining the illegality of smoking cannabis aboard ships after the country legalised recreational use on October 17.
Work belfore leisure
Dealing with the fact that seafarers are on board for their leisure as well as work time, Transport Canada reminded authorised representatives and seafarers of their responsibility to operate vessels safely, taking into account the implications of the Cannabis Act and related amendments. The act is a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale, possession and use of cannabis in Canada, allowing adults to possess and use small amounts of cannabis legally. However, the restrictions include an amendment to the criminal code to create three new drug-impaired driving offences, and in the workplace restrictions remain due to performance and safety concerns, which in maritime can impact overall safety of navigation, including the safety of the public and marine personnel. Under subsection 253(1) of the Criminal Code, one may not operate, assist in the operation of, or have the care or control of a vessel while impaired. This applies whether or not the vessel is moving, and applies whether alcohol or drugs, or both, are in use.
Marine personnel regulations also requires most seafarers who work on board a Canadian vessel to get a marine medical certificate issued by Transport Canada, attesting that a seafarer is fit to work at sea and consumption of cannabis is a factor that marine medical examiners and Transport Canada will consider when issuing certificates. Section 14 of the Safe Working Practices Regulations states that ‘no person shall be permitted in any working area whose ability to work is, in the opinion of the person in charge of the area, impaired by alcohol or a drug.’ Carrying any cannabis or cannabis products (legal or illegal) across Canada's borders will remain a serious criminal offence, with individuals convicted of engaging in such activities liable for prosecution.