Marijuana’s future in MassachusettsMarijuana has an uncertain future in Massachusetts. Currently, it’s legal in the commonwealth—but recent legislation changes could potentially remove key parts of the law. What does this mean for business owners?


In late December 2016, legislators approved a bill that would overturn significant parts of a marijuana legalization law that 1.8 million voters approved just last month. This will delay the likely opening date for recreational marijuana stores in Massachusetts by half a year—from January 2018 to July 2018.

Now, According to the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Legislature senate leader Rosenberg is considering the following:

  • Increasing the marijuana tax rate.
  • Lowering the 12-plant-per-household limit on homegrown pot.
  • Raising the legal age for purchase, possession, and use up from 21.

Despite this uncertain future, recreational marijuana usage is currently legal for people in the state of Massachusetts. As such, it’s prudent to create policies and procedures to protect both employees and employers.

How should businesses and business owners in the Commonwealth handle marijuana usage?

Create a policy for usage.

Just as your business has an alcohol policy, you should create a policy for marijuana usage. It could be very similar—marijuana is legal, but don’t come to work impaired.

Determine how to deal with testing procedures and outcomes.

Marijuana is more difficult to test for because it lasts longer in the body than alcohol does. Tests done on blood, hair, saliva, or urine can’t detect whether the drug was last used within the past several days or a couple of hours ago. Therefore, it’s important for business owners to determine which testing procedures they will use. According to SHRM, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest developments in testing.

Inform employees of the policy so you have a plan in place and stay ahead of the issue.

“For employers that want to maintain a zero-tolerance policy, Urban says, it’s much better to step out ahead of any potential issues and say, ‘We understand that marijuana just became legal, but we still have a zero-tolerance policy and here’s what that means.’” (SHRM)

No matter what your company’s approach will be, clearly communicating your policy is one of the most important things you must do. Then, document everything ahead of time and stick to your policy—be consistent in how you treat all cases.

Stay informed about changes to the law.

It’s imperative to keep an eye on any legislative changes to marijuana laws in Massachusetts. Here are some additional resources you may find useful: