TTC calls CBD oil a safety risk, forcing employee back on opioids

This is a story that will likely infuriate you. The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has basically forced one of their employees to choose between her job and medical cannabis, which has forced her back on opioids against her wishes and the advice of her doctor.

Ellaine Farrell, who has worked for the TTC for 26 years, is employed as a subway operator and she was told her if she wanted to continue to use medical cannabis as prescribed by her doctor, she could not remain at her “safety-sensitive” position. While she was offered other positions in the company, they all came with a significant pay cut, meaning the TTC was basically holding her job hostage if she didn’t quit her medicine!

So now, she’s using percocet and oxycodone, which “makes her feel like a zombie” and she is not happy at all, as she told CBC:

“Opioids are very, very addictive, and I want to get off the opioids because it’s ruining my life.”

And you know what’s the kicker?

She’s not even getting high! She’s using CBD oil, which is commonly used in many medications and it’s completely legal if you have a medical prescription- which she does!

The fact that the TTC is interfering with their employee’s health and forcing her on painkillers against her will while we’re in the midst of an opioid crisis is completely irresponsible and a classic example of the lingering “reefer madness” stigma.

Her physician, Dr. Michael Verbora, seems to agree as he told CBC:

“This felt extremely discriminating, and it felt like an invasion of my patient’s health and their personal rights.

Interfering with her and giving her an ultimatum that she can go back on opioids so she can drive or face financial consequences seems disingenuous.

The reality is that I’m not overly convinced that driving a TTC bus on opioids is safe either.”

But it seems like the TTC would rather go with the poison that they know over the medicine that they don’t.

Why is the TTC so against medical cannabis?

According to the CBC, “the TTC said an independent medical expert has advised the transit agency not to allow any employee in a safety-sensitive position to use any form of cannabis because they could get intoxicated.”

Unfortunately, this “medical expert” was not named, but it’s obvious that they are absolutely clueless on medical cannabis and the differences between THC and CBD.

But the word of this expert was good enough for the TTC as spokesman Brad Ross told CBC:

“This isn’t about cannabis. This is about any medication that could potentially impair, and that’s not a chance we’re prepared to take.”

So if this is actually about impairment like he says, I wonder if he realizes that opioids can “potentially impair”, too?

Common side effects and risks of opioids include:

  • constipation and diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • drowsiness
  • muscle pain
  • anxiety

Opioids are also very addictive. More addictive than cannabis. In fact, cannabis substitution programs have shown that cannabis can help opioid users cut down on their usage and sometimes quit altogether.

So it seems that opioids can “potentially impair”, too, so why is the TTC willing to take that chance on them?

It seems the TTC is aware opioids can impair, as it told Ellaine Farrell not to take any within eight hours of starting her shift, but this begs the question: Why couldn’t they have made a similar request when it came to CBD (which again, won’t get you high) instead of a blanket ban on using CBD at all?

She can’t even use CBD on the weekends or holidays without risking her job!

Comparing the health risks of opioids and cannabis is not even close- opioids kill thousands of Canadians across the country every year, while there have been no overdose deaths connected to cannabis, ever!

It’s clear that whoever is making these decisions at the TTC is woefully uninformed and is actively hurting their employees.

As Ellaine told CBC:

“I feel betrayed by my company, especially when there’s people making decisions on my life and they have never ever seen me face to face”.


Featured image courtesy of Mobile Syrup.


CBC News: ‘I feel betrayed by my company’: TTC subway operator barred while using medicinal cannabis