If Canada goes ahead and legalises recreational marijuana the ‘normalisation’ of its consumption could increase at-risk behaviour on the country’s railways.

That is the warning from the acting president of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), Gérald Gauthier, who voiced the industry’s concerns during a session of the Senate standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs.

Gérald said that working under the influence poses a danger to everyone in the workplace, especially in safety-sensitive industries such as rail, where impairment can increase the risks of serious injury and even death.

The Senate of Canada – which is one of three parts that makes up the country’s parliament – is currently consider Bill C-46 (Impaired Driving Act), which aims to prevent drug and alcohol impaired driving alongside the proposed legalisation of marijuana.

Gérald said that marijuana negatively affects vigilance, depth perception and reaction times.

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Gerald Gauthier. Photo: RAC.
Gerald Gauthier. Photo: RAC.

He added: “Implementing measures to determine if workers in safety-critical positions are impaired would be a major step in improving railway safety.

“We must protect our critical transportation networks. Public safety, employee safety, and the safety of our communities and environment depend upon it.

“That is why we are here today requesting that measures aimed at proactively securing Canada’s transportation infrastructure from increased risk of impairment be put in place to accompany marijuana legislation.”

Gérald’s remarks on behalf of the RAC, which represents more than 50 rail operators, are part of a wider call from the Canadian rail industry for the government to prioritise workplace safety as it aims to legalise recreational marijuana in 2018.

According to RAC, Canada’s rail sector employs approximately 30,000 people.

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