Effective immediately, Transport Canada is moving forward with a new policy prohibiting flight crews and flight controllers from consuming cannabis for at least 28 days before being on duty.
The Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) require fitness for duty and that no person shall act as a crew member of an aircraft, air traffic controller, or flight service specialist while using or under the influence of any drug that impairs the person’s faculties to the extent that aviation safety is affected. The change is aligned with the best available science and is consistent with other government departments’ approach to legalization of cannabis including the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.The policy does not prevent Canada’s air operators from implementing more stringent prohibitions for their employees.
Following the legalization of cannabis in October 2018, the Department undertook extensive policy review and consultation to determine the most effective means of ensuring aviation safety with regard to impairment overall, including cannabis.
What is Transport Canada’s 28-day cannabis use policy?
On June 3, 2019, Transport Canada announced a new policy stating that flight crew (pilots and flight engineers) and flight controllers (air traffic controllers) are prohibited from the use cannabis for at least 28 days before being on duty.
Civil Aviation Medicine Cannabis Policy (See Staff Instruction 404-002)
Who does the 28-day policy apply to?
The 28-day policy applies to all flight crew and flight controllers who require Transport Canada Medical Certificates for their aviation permits, licenses, or ratings.
A flight crew member is defined in the Canadian Aviation Regulations as a “pilot or flight engineer of an aircraft.” A flight controller is an air traffic controller (ATC).
What is the purpose of the 28-day policy?
Even though cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use, it can still be a safety hazard in aviation. The purpose of the 28-day policy is to protect aviation and public safety.
The 28-day cannabis prohibition policy provides additional layer of safety to existing approach: no impairment, no diagnosis of Substance Use Disorder, no patterns of problematic use likely to affect aviation safety and no cannabis use in the last 28 days. Therefore, 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.
Why 28 days?
The 28-day policy is aligned with the best available science, and is consistent with other government departments’ approach to legalization of cannabis including the Department of National Defense and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This includes how the body gets rid of cannabis, how long it can be detected in the body, and when the brain returns to normal after using cannabis.
What is “cannabis use?” Does it include CBD (cannabidiol)?
Transport Canada defines “cannabis use” as the use of any cannabis product (including CBD) by any method (including smoking, vaping, eating, or applying to the skin) for any purpose (including medical, recreational, or other non-medical reasons).
Is the 28-day policy written in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs)?
No. The 28-day policy is based on existing CARs which require pilots, flight engineers, and air traffic controllers to be fit for duty and free of the effects of any drugs or medications.
This approach is consistent with existing Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) sections 602.02, 602.03, and 801.01 which require fitness for duty, and that no person shall act as a crew member of an aircraft, air traffic controller, or flight service specialist while using or under the influence of any drug that impairs the person’s faculties to the extent that aviation safety is affected.
Transport Canada undertook extensive policy review and consultations to determine the most effective means of ensuring aviation safety with regard to impairment overall, including cannabis.
By following the 28-day policy, will I be legal to fly or control aircraft in other countries?
Pilots, flight engineers, and air traffic controllers are responsible for following the laws of other countries where they operate.
Can my employer have a more strict cannabis policy?
The policy does not prevent Canadian Air Operators from implementing more stringent prohibitions for their employees.
Transport Canada requires that all pilots, flight engineers and air traffic controllers be free of any effects/side-effects of prescribed or non-prescribed medications that would interfere with the reliable function of duties.
For more information about this new policy or other civil aviation matters, please feel free to contact us via Civil Aviation Communications Centre contact form.