Businesses in Massachusetts Warn Against Marijuana Legalization

A new survey from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) found that 62 percent of businesses in the state oppose legalizing cannabis. Massachusetts's voters will decide on whether to legalize personal cannabis consumption in November through a ballot initiative.  

The state's largest employer group is lobbying hard against the effort. Earlier this month, CEO of AIM Richard C. Lord wrote a letter to lawmakers opposing a similar effort to legalize personal use of marijuana through the legislature.

"[Legalization would] create considerable uncertainty for employers relative to their legal rights and obligations, particularly as relates to workplace drug policies," Lord said. "With legalized marijuana use, we create the risk of employees coming to work with drugs still in their system… How will an employer respond to a worker operating heavy equipment on a job site under the influence of marijuana?"

Businesses in the state seem to be under the impression that legalizing cannabis will turn their employees into irresponsible potheads. But just because a substance is legal doesn't mean employees will be rushing to toke up before work. Plenty of cannabis consumers wake and bake before heading to the office—whether or not weed is legal doesn't change that.

What would change is that money spent on marijuana will shift towards the legal market, creating a whole new industry that would buoy the state's economy. New research from ArcView and New Frontier estimated that the cannabis industry in Massachusetts could be worth $1.1 billion by 2020, if voters opt for legalizing this fall.

That projection is for businesses that sell marijuana and cannabis products; it doesn't even include ancillary businesses or other industries that would benefit from legalization.

The fact that voters seem likely to approve the ballot initiative in November puts Massachusetts at the forefront of legalization in the Northeast. Depending on what happens with Vermont's attempt to legalize through the legislature, Massachusetts could be the first state in the region with a legal cannabis market. That would boost the state's tourism industry, as well as other businesses that pop up in legal cannabis markets.

Businesses in Massachusetts would do well to read the actual ballot initiative before jumping to conclusions about the consequences of legalization. The text includes provisions for employers who want to maintain drug-free workplaces and keeps in place any penalties for negligence and malpractice that result from being impaired by marijuana. No one is suggesting that people who operate machinery or automobiles should get high while on the job.

For office workers, marijuana could even help with creativity and productivity.

"If [cannabis] helps our employees get work done, then we don't care if they consume at work," CEO of Flowhub Kyle Sherman told CNN Money. "It definitely surfaces new ideas and a fresh take on things."

Looks like business leaders in Massachusetts could use a little inspiration when it comes to marijuana policy.

(Image Courtesy of inhaleMD)

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