Selling pot should be left to experts
Welcome to the 1950s when, if an Ontarian wanted to legally purchase alcohol, he or she entered a bland warehouse, filled out and signed an order form, then handed it to a clerk who disappeared into a back room and eventually emerged with a limited amount of booze for purchase.
That sounds a lot like what Kathleen Wynne’s government has proposed as an approach to cannabis, which is to be legalized nationally as early as July.
Under the province’s plan, you won’t be able to buy cannabis from private entrepreneurs, or at an LCBO. Instead, the Ontario government will set up an independent subsidiary of the liquor control board to peddle pot. Advertising will be limited, there will be no self-service, the products will be kept behind the counter, and you’d better be able to prove you are 19 or older.
This approach is rubbish. It disrespects the spirit of the yet-to-be-passed federal legalization legislation, which, though reluctantly, recognizes that individuals have the right to make choices about what they consume. Ontario seems to feel that if it must allow citizens to smoke pot, it will at least make this as difficult as possible.
Ontario’s approach is bad for other reasons:
• It will create more government bureaucracy.
Another provincial agency is poised to spring from the imagination of the nanny state, this time to run a retail business.
• The province will have to make guesses
about the right pricing, since it wishes to shut down the black market in drugs. But the best way to get prices right is to let private entrepreneurs determine what they wish to charge and take the associated economic risks. The cannabis control board, or whatever it will be called, will also have to figure out which pot products it will market.
• While the current batch of pop-up pot
shops is illegal, these outlets offer the beginnings of a private-sector model for selling marijuana. They have supply chains, a certain expertise and a client base. If made legal, they would require careful regulation and health inspections, and would need to adhere to zoning and other local rules. Further, governments could still tax pot products, just as they tax cigarettes, gasoline and other goods.
No one should be surprised the province has taken a school-marm approach to marijuana. There’s a provincial election next year, and the government’s “safe and sensible approach,” as it dubs its pot policy, is indeed that — for the governing party.
But it does not make a good deal of sense for consumers. Just as it didn’t in the 1950s. — Postmedia Network