In Boston, 3 out of the 5 members of the new Cannabis Control Commission have stated that they have tried the drug which they are now regulating, and the other two members declined to comment. The three commissioners who admitted to using marijuana were Chairman Steve Hoffman, attorney Britte McBride and former deputy general counsel to the Department of Public Health Kay Doyle. Commissioners Jen Flanagan and Shaleen Title declined to give an answer, which most interpreted as a definite yes. Title worked on drafting the ballot question that legalized adult use of marijuana and retail pot sales and is the only member of the commission who voted for legalization when it was on the ballot last year.
Marijuana in the Workforce
Marijuana is now legal for people over the age of 21 in Massachusetts, but there is still the issue of workplace marijuana. It is one thing to allow citizens to smoke their plant of choice. It is another to force companies to allow their employees to smoke marijuana on the job. Many companies screen their employees with drugs tests, and if they fail the test then they are ruled out from employment. While many call this discrimination, it sounds perfectly logical and reasonable. You do not want your neurosurgeon or accountant smoking marijuana on the job. The issue is whether or not marijuana will lead to a decreased level of job quality, and it has to be said that this is most likely the case. Studies have proven that while under the influence of marijuana, shore term recall declines. And in the workplace short term memory is quite important. Forgetfulness will lead to sloppiness and a decreased standard of work. The stereotype of the tired and lazy marijuana user is not without its merits, though it is perhaps exaggerated. There are many long-term marijuana users who inhale the plant daily and can perform quite well, but it is still reasonable to leave it at the employers’ discretion.
Is there that much of a difference between showing up to work drunk or showing up to work stoned? The real sticky question in relation to marijuana in the workforce is that employers can refuse to consider potential employees who smoke only in their own home and not in the workplace, and the issue is whether this is discriminatory or not. There is a good argument that it is. There is no conclusive evidence that cannabis users who are not high are any less effective in any roles that people who are sober.
What does the Commission do?
The commission is responsible for writing regulations to foster a retail marijuana industry catering to medical customers with sales to start by next July. Legalized weed is fairly new terrain in politics and society, and marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law. The current approach to marijuana legalization has been to let each state vote and regulate marijuana as they see fit. This means that every state has different approaches as to how to grow, regulate, distribute, brand and license marijuana. Some states have taken a strict approach and have a number of regulations with regard to the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. Others have opted for lighter touch regulation that leaves it more or less in the hands of individuals. And even within states where recreational marijuana is legal, the work is then delegated to local counties who may have differing approacheswith regard to how to implement state rules and regulations. In other words, the legalization of marijuana in the USA is as decentralized and fragmented as it gets.
An Unjust Attack
The headlines are a little unjust with regard to the commissioners. Is it really that big of a deal that these people have actually smoked marijuana? It is being painted as almost hypocritical that former cannabis users are leading the commission. But it is most likely a good thing that the commission is made up of members who have all (probably) smoked pot. The other case would be a commission of people who have never taken marijuana and might believe it to be a mind-altering strain that leads to crime, though the opposite is actually the case. With regard to the selection of the commissioner Governor Charlie Baker stated that
“I think the people who’ve been selected all have terrific qualifications and skillsets to meet the task that’s in front of them, and it’s a big task. My advice to them would be to find a way to just stick to the task and the work at hand.”