The Surrey Board of Trade is just saying no to legalized pot.
Weighing in on the debate on legalization, a position statement issued Thursday by board CEO Anita Huberman advocates that current marijuana laws stay in place.
From a business standpoint, it makes the best sense, Huberman told Peace Arch News.
“This is a leadership perspective. When we developed the position, the productivity and efficiency of the workplace was the main focus,” Huberman said.
“When you have employees smoking pot, their attention is diminished and continues to diminish. It’s also a starter drug that can lead to all kinds of other drugs. We’re in a soft economy right now and we continue to be in a soft economy. We all feel the workplace has to be looked after and this kind of distraction is not needed.”
Huberman said the position was developed by the board’s Crime and Justice Advocacy Committee, presented with documented research and approved by the 19 directors of the board in September 2012.
“The board is very diverse in terms of backgrounds and industries and elected with a mandate to speak on behalf of membership and the business community,” she said.
A Forum Research poll conducted last month found that 70 per cent of Canadians favour either legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. Fifteen per cent took the board’s position that laws should stay unchanged.
The board of trade’s research, however, suggests legalizing marijuana would “pose serious negative impacts on businesses.”
The board’s position paper cites potential loss of production, disruption due to risk of impaired machinery operation and potential increased costs of absenteeism and strain on health programs as reasons legalization would be a bad idea. Impacts on health from marijuana use would also impair job performance and affect “interpersonal relations in the workplace,” the statement argues.
Huberman acknowledges the board has taken an increasingly outspoken stance on social and political issues that have an impact on business.
“I’ve been CEO for seven years now, and one of the things I wanted to ensure was that we were leaders – not only taking care of membership and board functions, but also supporting business from an advocacy perspective. It’s important for me to ensure that we are focused on issues.”
To that end, she said, there are seven advocacy committees, representing the work of some 350 volunteers, developing positions on environmental, tax and financial, industry, international, social policy and transportation issues.
Among recent statements have been support in May for a new coal terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks and a position paper in February calling for the province to invest more heavily in post-secondary education funding.
Two years ago, Huberman noted, the board advocated an increase of the minimum wage, while last year it came out in favour of Gateway’s South Surrey casino proposal and issued a position paper on business and family, which pointed to the need for government to address the economic squeeze on generations raising young children and its impact on business costs and workplace conditions.