Saturday, February 23, 2019

State politicians bungling cannabis legalization

Libertarian official schools entrepreneurs on cannabis legalization - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL - Billy Cox:

February 23, 2019 - "[C]annabis ... legalization advocate Adrian Moore told a conservative Argus Foundation audience Friday that Florida has to get smarter.... Moore, vice president of the Libertarian Reason Foundation, said support for an 'adult use' referendum on the 2020 ballot is growing, and that lawmakers should be wary of pushing back with the sorts of stifling regulations that have created surging black markets in legal states....

“'These state governments were just doing an absolutely atrocious job with literally no idea of how things work,' he told an audience of 90 at the Sarasota Yacht Club. 'I think most of you probably know that understanding how markets work is not a prerequisite for being a legislator.'

"Having moved to Sarasota from northern California four years ago to escape high state taxes, Moore offered a cautionary tale to area business leaders whose understanding of emerging marijuana markets might well be as limited as that of Florida’s elected officials. He cited how Tallahassee’s refusal to yield to public opinion — lawmakers have erected numerous roadblocks to full implementation of Amendment 2 in 2016, despite 71 percent voter approval — has resulted in legal defeats at every turn.

"With prospects for even broader access looming, Moore warned against overtaxation, which fuels underground economies and defeats the purpose of legalization. He mentioned a New York Times article exposing California’s thriving marijuana black markets.... Moore, who holds a doctorate in economics as well as master’s degrees in economics and history, acknowledged the windfall-prospects lure of legal cannabis. But legislative greed, he said, can undermine the law’s best intentions.

"But legal marijuana’s pitfalls aren’t limited to tax policy. Federal prohibition aside, Moore pointed to tensions between state and local governments over licensing restrictions, zoning restrictions and regional price disparities that can drive product demand across state lines, which can provoke federal blowback.

"In California, for instance, four-fifths of the state’s municipalities have banned marijuana retailers simply because 'they were given the option to'.... What it means, he said, is that 'you don’t have a functional market in California.' Moore also points to California’s onerous 330 pages of rules and regulations in state marijuana laws, much of which he argues are devoted to 'harm reduction' scenarios, many of which are hypothetical and growth-inhibiting.....

"Another 'super-hot issue' facing states is the expungement of criminal records for nonviolent offenders whose marijuana crimes become obsolete when legalization laws are passed. Then there’s the issue of mandated 'gifting' of licenses to entrepreneurs in traditionally disadvantaged communities, whether or not those owners are qualified to handle demand.

"Moore’s presentation generated questions from understandably confused Sarasota employers.... He reminded listeners that, with marijuana still classified as a dangerous Schedule 1 drug, no state has developed a model policy. Colorado, the first state to legalize personal-use cannabis in 2014, continues to tweak and refine its rules as issues arise."

“'It seems that employers have control over their destiny, which is really what we’re going for,' Moore said. 'It should be up to employers to figure out how it should be applied and how it shouldn’t, as long as it’s not discriminatory.'”

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