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What Every Business Needs to Know About the New Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Law

If you manage a business that deals with Massachusetts residents or property, you need to know a few things about the new medical marijuana law and coming regulations.

In November, Massachusetts voters approved a ballot question which allows patients with qualifying medical conditions to obtain and use medical marijuana. Seventeen other states currently allow medical marijuana with varying degrees of regulation. By May 1, 2013 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health will issue regulations concerning applications for non-profit medical marijuana treatment centers as well as details on the rules that will govern such dispensaries, their employees and qualifying patients.

Some businesses may think the new medical marijuana law will not impact them, but they are mistaken. There will be at least two areas where the medical marijuana law will have an immediate impact: employment law and landlord/tenant law.

In terms of employment law, employers will need to address how the law impacts their controlled substance policies including, but not limited to, drug testing. The law contains an anti-discrimination clause that prohibits any qualifying patient from being penalized or denied any right or privilege for using medical marijuana. Employers should review their employment handbooks to ensure their employment policies and procedures are in accord with this new law and that their controlled substance policies will not be in violation.

Another business segment that will be immediately affected will be landlords and their tenants. Commercial and residential Landlords, property managers and leasing agents will be faced with how to address prospective dispensaries as tenants as well as marijuana use by tenants who are qualified patients. The anti-discrimination clause in the new law is broad and encompasses any denial of any right or privilege based on medical marijuana use. In addition to preventing discrimination based on marijuana use, the law also will allow certain persons a hardship cultivation license which will allow a person to cultivate and store a limited number of marijuana plants. Landlords need to be prepared to address these concerns and review their leases and procedures to confirm they are in accord with the new law.

There will be many novel legal issues associated with the medical marijuana laws in Massachusetts and other states. Businesses will be well advised to review the law with qualified attorneys to develop a strategy to address these many issues.

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