Pubdate: Sat, 23 Aug 2014
Source: Toronto Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Michele Mandel
Page: 8


Trucker denied gig because of her medical marijuana use

Patti Satok is a tough mother trucker - a straight-talking, red
cowboy-boot wearing former boxing champ - but she says she has been
beaten up more by the trucking industry than she ever was in the ring.

Now she's fighting back for her right to keep on trucking - even if
she does have a prescription for medicinal marijuana.

In 2006, five years after she started driving a truck, Satok was
crushed by a 680-kilogram skid of bottled water that pinned her
against the inside wall of her tractor trailer, shattering her
shoulder, knees and hip. She's had one surgery to repair her shoulder
and another is scheduled next month for her knee. "I live with
chronic, widespread pain every single day," says the 50-year-old
mother of one as she pulls out a "buzz fudge" marijuana brownie at a
Mississauga truck stop.

After trying all kinds of prescribed pharmaceuticals with mixed
results, she finally got a script in January for five grams daily of
medical marijuana, which she usually uses to make tea that helps her

It was a difficult decision for a professional trucker. Satok knew
that with mandatory drug testing in the U.S. and their less than
enlightened views toward medical cannabis, she wouldn't be allowed to
drive across the border.

But she didn't think there would be a problem when she applied in May
for a Canada-only long-distance trucking job at Day and Ross; their
policy stated clearly that "the legal use of prescribed drugs is
permitted on the job only if it does not impair an individual's
ability to perform the essential functions of the job."

Satok was using a legal drug approved by her doctor - if there were
any concerns about her driving, her physician would have had to report
her to the transportation ministry as unfit to operate a truck, which
didn't happen.

More importantly, Satok was only using the medical pot during her off
hours. She was honest on all the application forms. She passed the
road test, did two days of orientation and agreed to take a drug test,
though they are not mandatory in Canada. Not surprisingly, it came
back positive for marijuana, which she quickly acknowledged was due to
her prescription. "Marijuana stays in your system for up to two
months, it's not an indication of impairment," she explains.

But that's the dicey problem for the trucking industry. Unlike a
breathalyzer, there's no measure for marijuana impairment. Do they
take her word that she would never drive while under the influence or
do they opt to not take any chances by refusing to employ a driver
using medicinal marijuana? After several days of their scrambling
behind the scenes to consult their policies and practices, she was
informed the job that she had been led to believe was hers was no
longer on the table. "Declined," was the only explanation she received.

"They just cut me off at the knees and left me hanging. That's wrong,"
she says vehemently. "I was denied my livelihood and job due to a lack
of laws and old, outdated company policies."

Satok has filed a discrimination complaint against Day and Ross with
the Canadian Human Rights Commission, alleging "refusal to hire,
adverse treatment and discriminatory policy or practice" and the CHRC
has agreed to begin an investigation. "We intend to deal with the
complaint," the commission wrote in a letter last month, advising the
company it has until Aug. 29 to file a response.

The New Brunswick-based trucking company did not provide any
indication about why she was not hired. A call to Day and Ross for
comment was not returned.

"I'm not asking permission to drive down the road smoking a joint,"
Satok insists. "When I'm off duty, not in the care and control of my
vehicle, I need to sleep because the pain is so bad and I want to be
able to take what has been prescribed to me."

Others can take oxycodone and all types of other powerful pain
medications without having a drug test before driving. Satok wants to
know why she can't do the same.

Unable to get a job, she's had to go back on CPP disability benefits.
"All I wanted to do was work. I love being a truck driver. I'm proud
of being a truck driver," she says. "I thought honesty was the best
policy, but it doesn't feel like that some days."
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MAP posted-by: Matt