Article by Murray Brewster, CBC News
Ensuring its soldiers, sailors and aircrew are not the slightest bit stoned as they go out the door to war or other hazards is the subject of intense study and debate as the Canadian military looks ahead to this year’s expected legalization of marijuana.
The army, navy, air force and special forces are not your average workplaces, and the senior commander in charge of military personnel says he won’t hesitate to recommend restrictions and screening should the need arise.
“We’re concerned about how folks will be able to do their job,” Lt.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre told CBC News.
“And we are concerned about folks who have the challenges of operating heavy equipment, weaponry, who are on call on a regular basis to go and do things, like our [search and rescue] technicians.”
The Liberal government’s legislation to legalize and regulate recreational use of marijuana is before the Senate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in an interview before Christmas, said it would be “next summer” before it becomes law.
Workplace safety has figured in some aspects of the pot debate, but Lamarre said the potential for increased use and acceptance among the general population brings with it pressing national security concerns.
“We have to be able to protect the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to be able to send men and and women — at a moment’s notice — to operate in some very, very dangerous and demanding environments,” he said.
Since last spring, a team of military policy experts, including medical, legal and officers on operational duty, has been examining the implications of the legislation and what policies might have to change.
Lamarre said it’s too soon to know if there will be limits on marijuana use, but he is prepared to “recommend or propose control measures” as long as there’s scientific research to back them up.
Employers in the civilian world can prohibit drug and alcohol use in the workplace, with some exceptions for medical marijuana patients.
The military has limited and even banned the consumption of alcohol in specific circumstances, notably in Afghanistan.