Eric Madore was excited about his new job as a bus driver, but he didn’t know his first day on the job would also be his last.
Madore was hired, and fired, by Sinton-Landmark to drive a school bus along a route from Collingwood to New Lowell.
When he was hired, he explained to his new bosses that he had a legal, medical marijuana prescription.
At the time, Madore said, his superiors said they weren’t concerned about him being able to pass the required tests to obtain his Class B drivers’ license. In fact, according to Madore, he was told Sinton-Landmark once had a driver who was on a methadone prescription pass screening and drive successfully.
After one-and-a-half months of testing, which included a medical screening, communication with his family doctor who prescribed the medical marijuana, background checks, written tests and drivers tests, Madore earned his class B licence. He submitted 12-plus years of a clean driver’s abstract, and took one more refresher course before his first day.
He did a morning and afternoon high school route on May 22. The next morning he says he was called into the office and fired.
“They called me to say there was a complaint from a parent saying they smelled marijuana,” said Madore, adding he couldn't get any more details on the complaint, such as where the smell was coming from or when the parent smelled it.
Madore said he didn’t meet any parents along the way. He said he didn’t use any of his medical marijuana that day – he only smokes it in the evening. He wasn’t carrying any and he didn’t have any devices used to smoke it.
According to Madore, Sinton-Landmark told him they had never encountered a situation like this, and they would have to let him go due to liability issues.
Madore takes medical marijuana for several health issues. He has had two liver transplants, including one nine months ago. He has developed a joint condition with pain and symptoms similar to arthritis. He has a prescription allowing him three grams of medical marijuana per day, but said he doesn’t usually go through that much.
He said he doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. And, he stressed, he definitely doesn’t smoke marijuana before driving.
“It felt like a witch hunt,” said Madore. “I’m angry. I was excited for this. It was a career, a way out because I was feeling hopeless.”
Madore formerly worked at a recycling plant, but the joint pain he’s experiencing prevents him from standing for long periods.
“I felt targeted, I did everything I was supposed to,” said Madore. He passed all his written, physical and driving tests the first try.
“I feel like I’m being stigmatized for my choice in medicine,” said Madore. “I don’t want to disregard something that’s helping me for a job … I can drive a bus, they’ve seen it. I’m safe when I’m driving by myself and if I’m transporting others.”
Sinton Landmark Collingwood did not respond to repeated requests for comment from CollingwoodToday.
There are laws governing the amount of cannabis a driver can have in his or her system while operating a vehicle. If the vehicle is commercial, starting July 1, 2018 there’s a zero tolerance for any amount of cannabis in a driver’s system.
However, according the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO) website, legally authorized medical cannabis users are not subject to the zero tolerance drug requirements for commercial drivers. They are lawfully allowed to drive commercial vehicles provided they pass the government screening, medical check and written and driving tests required for commercial drivers.
Medical cannabis users can still face penalties or criminal charges if a police officer has determined his or her ability to drive has been impaired. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure he or she is not impaired while driving.
Also on the MTO website is a list of methods police can use to detect impaired drivers, including those impaired due to cannabis use.
The officer may carry out a roadside field sobriety test, breath testing, a drug recognition evaluation, and may use an oral fluid screening device. Madore did not receive any of these tests before he was fired from his job as a bus driver.
Soon even recreational use of cannabis will be legal in Canada; Madore said it’s about time companies catch up.
“Enough is enough, look at the facts, there are successful stoners out there,” said Madore.