The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, a business group with 3,200 members across the state, is opposing a proposed ballot measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Massachusetts, its president said Wednesday.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is pushing to place the measure on the November 2016 ballot.
Jon Hurst, president of the retailers’ group, said the ballot measure has “too many flaws.”
“We think it could create a real litigious environment and a real can of worms for employee relations in hiring and firing situations,” Hurst said.
Dispensaries could have an impact on main street businesses, which try to attract consumers with a “good shopping environment” and the “right mix” of businesses, Hurst added.
Two state senators who traveled to Colorado addressed the retailers’ group on the issue, Hurst said.
The two senators were Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, a retailer himself as the owner and operator of RWA Mobil on Route 3A. Lewis and deMacedo both oppose legalization.
The Retailers Association’s board voted last week to oppose the question.
The Retailers Association’s stance was initially announced through a press release from the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, a bipartisan ballot committee formed to defeat legalization.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) called the Retailers Association’s concerns baseless and said there haven’t been worker impairment issues in the four states where recreational marijuana is legal.
They also argued the Cannabis Control Commission, which the campaign is seeking to create through the ballot measure, would also regulate edibles and other aspects of a legal marijuana industry, incorporating lessons learned from the four states, which are Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon.
“Legalization is working in other states and will work in Massachusetts,” Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for CRMLA, said in an email.
“These states are seeing hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenues along with thousands of new jobs,” he wrote. “Legalizing and regulating marijuana will take the power away from gangs and cartels and place control with state and local authorities.”
Asked if he had ever smoked marijuana, Hurst chuckled and said, “I have but it’s been about three decades. It’s been a long time.”
“I don’t judge anyone that does, we just feel like this is a flawed measure,” and it carries tough implications for employers, Hurst said.
Massachusetts voters decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2008 and legalized marijuana for medical use in 2012.
Lawmakers on Beacon Hill have shown reluctance to deal with the issue through legislative means. Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a former legislator, are pushing for the defeat of the ballot question.