Perhaps with dollar signs in their eyes, 71% of retail industry professionals participating in an online poll this week supported the legalization of marijuana. Prompted by last week's news that Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman had headed a list of more than 500 economists calling for a national debate on marijuana policy, RetailWire.com, a forum for industry professionals, took the question to its readership and found surprising support.
"From a purely practical standpoint, many are now convinced that legalizing marijuana in the US would be of great benefit to the economy, particularly to retail businesses, and would alleviate other social problems and injustices," RetailWire.com noted in a Tuesday news release on the poll results titled "Retail-ize It!"
While retail professionals were keen to free the weed for commercial purposes, RetailWire.com's "BrainTrust panelists," a group of industry professionals who regularly comment on retail issues for the web site, were more evenly divided. "Why not?" asked panelist Michael Richmond, an executive for Packaging and Technology Integrated Solutions. "Friedman et al make strong arguments for legalization from a variety of platforms. The obvious way to start the process is to put it in with the BATF, set some guidelines, sell it like you sell alcohol and cigarettes. My sense is that, if it were legalized, there would be fewer traffic fatalities but we might have to support the new snacking tax because of the munchies! I think the positives really outweigh the negatives."
Virtual retail consultant James Tenser of VSN Strategies, however, raised a caution flag, though not from the expected direction. "Speaking hypothetically," wrote Tenser, "marijuana might prove to be a profitable line for retailers. And it seems righteous to stop incarcerating young people for simple possession at a high cost to taxpayers. But I wouldn't advocate that retailers take an active pro-pot stance. Most have been backing away from tobacco sales due mainly to health concerns. Pot risks are similar. And considering the present quality of the retail workforce -- what kind of labor pool would chain retailers have to draw from if pot were actually legal?"
Cheap munchie jokes and faux concerns about pot smokers being able to handle the intellectual rigors of WalMart aside, the RetailWire.com poll and discussion, while admittedly unscientific, strongly suggest the pro-legalization sentiment is spreading even in unexpected quarters.
Readers may appreciate Eric Sterling's A Businessperson's Guide to the Drug Problem.