The country’s top military commander dropped a broad hint Monday that some members of the Canadian Armed Forces — particularly those in dangerous occupations — will face special restrictions on the use of recreational marijuana after it becomes legal later this year.
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told a Senate committee he’ll soon make recommendations to the defence minister on what kind of policy should be put in place, including “a standard of abstinence.”
The military is called upon to do “a dangerous duty, a serious duty, and we don’t want people doing it stoned,” he said.
Vance told the committee he must consider “the specific and unique circumstances associated with military service that would preclude someone from using cannabis at any particular point in time.”
Not a total ban
That won’t mean a total ban, he later told reporters.
“We will follow the law of the land, of course,” he said.
Instead, he said, he’ll look at common-sense regulations that take into account public safety.
“Although it may be available and part of a cultural norm, it’s not for a pilot who is about to fly,” Vance said. “Generally speaking we don’t want people at work intoxicated from anything, whether it’s alcohol or cannabis.”
Civilian employers 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 and during operational deployments, notably in Afghanistan.
The subject of how to deal with legalized pot has been a matter of intense study within National Defence for almost a year.
A team of military policy experts — including medical and legal experts, and officers on operational duty — has been examining the implications of the cannabis legislation and looking at which military policies might have to change.
Last fall, the head of military personnel, Lt.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre, told CBC News he was prepared to “recommend or propose control measures” as long as there was scientific research to back them up.
Vance said he doesn’t “anticipate this will be a significant problem for us.”
Vance vows to ‘be smart about’ cannabis control
The military is trying to understand how best to detect marijuana use and the level of impairment among individuals.
“We want to make decisions based in evidence,” Vance said. “We don’t want to start laying down rules on when you can and can’t use cannabis that don’t make sense. We’re going to try and be smart about it.”
The Liberals government’s marijuana legislation, Bill C-45, is still before the Senate.
The government’s initial plan was to legalize recreational pot use by July, but Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor acknowledged earlier this month that the Senate vote won’t take place until June 7, later than expected.
And if there are amendments at the Senate level, the bill might have to go back to the House of Commons.
That means it could be August or September before it becomes law.