Cannabis stocks climb ahead of congressional hearing on bank access

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the cannabis advocacy group Consumer Choice Center, urged lawmakers to push for banking reform, outlining the risks facing companies forced to operate as cash-only businesses.

“Higher risk means cannabis companies face additional costs,” Ossowski said in a statement. “They have to hire security guards for transporting cash and paying local and state taxes, hire additional accountants to understand how to comply with existing rules and dedicate hours to organizing cash for payroll and business expenses. That ends upraising the cost of the product.”

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Legal Cannabis Is Here to Stay, and Consumers and Entrepreneurs Deserve Safe Banking Options

On Wednesday, US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) will lead a subcommittee hearing on access to banking services for cannabis-related businesses.

For hundreds of millions of Americans across the country, cannabis is no longer the “reefer madness” street drug it once was.

Much like alcohol before it, the cannabis plant has evolved from a narcotic trafficked across borders and sold on the black market into one of the most sought-after products in legitimate commerce, bought by consumers who seek its medical or therapeutic benefits.

In states where cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use, there are now thousands of cannabis-related businesses that buy and sell goods and services, estimated to be worth over $50 billion nationally. These states have, in the spirit of the American federal system, pursued their own economic and legal experiments, or “laboratories of democracy.” And they have been wildly successful.

The $1.4 billion in total cannabis sales in the state of Colorado last year and the $266 million in tax revenue point to this. California’s cannabis market is projected to be worth $7.7 billion by 2022.

Employees can themselves have their accounts shut down for even receiving a dime.

And yet, though 33 states have some measure of regulated cannabis laws and thousands of employees and consumers, the vast majority of cannabis-related businesses remain unbanked—without bank accounts and dealing only in cash. While nearly one-third of the country’s population lives in a state where cannabis can be purchased legally, the federal government still classifies it as a Schedule 1 narcotic without any medical benefit and with a high potential for abuse.

If any bank accepts deposits from a firm dealing in cannabis, it risks losing the guarantee on its deposits from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, not to mention their federal banking license and the pressure from the IRS and federal investigators.

That means all businesses in the cannabis space operate in risky territory: The federal government considers them outlaws, banks won’t even touch their money, and they’re forced to deal only in cash. Employees can have their accounts shut down for even receiving a dime from their cannabis employers, and existing dispensaries are always at risk of being raided by law enforcement.

For the price-conscious digital millennial, an additional 20 percent markup on legal cannabis is a nudge to revert to the black market.

Higher risk means cannabis companies face additional costs. They have to hire security guards for transporting cash and paying local and state taxes, hire additional accountants to understand how to comply with existing rules, and dedicate hours to organizing cash for payroll and business expenses. That ends up raising the cost of the product.

For the price-conscious digital millennial who can compare prices at the swipe of a phone, an additional 20 percent markup on legal cannabis is a nudge to revert back to the unregulated black market where cannabis is relatively inexpensive. That not only risks consumer safety, but it also deprives governments and local communities of tax revenue.

At least some lawmakers, however, are voicing this concern and are prepared to act.

On Wednesday, US Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) will lead a subcommittee hearing on access to banking services for cannabis-related businesses.

The committee will hear from law enforcement, credit union representatives who have risked accepting cannabis clients, and state administrators who are dealing with their own crises in cannabis banking.

Whether or not to legalize cannabis is now a foregone conclusion. We’re living in the legalization moment, and Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other states have opened the door.

Whether those voices will be enough to push Congress to enact change remains to be seen, but there is at least hope for the thousands of entrepreneurs and consumers who are seeking certainty.

If entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry will be able to access capital and loans similar to firms in practically every other industry, that means they will be able to grow their operations, hire more employees, and make investments—and consumers will be better off for it, not to mention cash-strapped state and local communities.

Whether or not to legalize cannabis is now a foregone conclusion. We’re living in the legalization moment, and Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and other states have opened the door. Now, our country must choose whether or not to embrace the successes of our state “laboratories of democracy,” which have proven that legalization works, and offer solutions to legitimize cannabis.

The next question is whether federal and state jurisdictions will adopt “smart” legalization that encourages markets, competition, safety, and the eradication of the black market. That’s how consumers and entrepreneurs will reap the most benefits and how cannabis can enjoy the mature industry status that alcohol has enjoyed for close to a century since the end of prohibition.

Originally published at https://fee.org/articles/legal-cannabis-is-here-to-stay-and-consumers-and-entrepreneurs-deserve-safe-banking-options/

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Calls for a new EU carbon and aviation tax

The suggestion has not been greeted favourably by the domestic market. Fred Roeder, managing director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), says that such a move would limit passenger choice and burden consumers from all over the EU with a new tax.

“The Netherlands seem to flip-flop on whether consumers should be burdened with a passenger departure tax or not. They used to tax passengers, got rid of the tax, and now plan to reintroduce one again. Learning from the effects of having a passenger tax while neighbouring countries don’t have one, the Dutch government must have come to the conclusion that all European passengers should be burdened with this tax. Thus, Dutch passengers would not be able to [access] cheaper and levy-free flights in Belgium or Luxembourg,” said Roeder.

“This shows that Dutch policymakers are aware that this is a bad policy and hurts passengers. No Eastern European EU Member State has such a tax yet. Introducing it would especially hurt the mobility of economic commuters and young Europeans travelling from Eastern Europe to the rest of the continent.

“Right now, we see a concentration of a few carriers in the market, foreign carriers aren’t allowed to offer inner-European routes due to cabotage rules, and at the same time, policymakers want to squeeze out more money from passengers. Instead of burdening European air passengers with more taxes we should rather open up European skies to further competition from the world,” concluded Roeder.

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About Fred Roeder

Fred Roder has been working in the field of grassroots activism for over eight years. He is a Health Economist from Germany and has worked in healthcare reform and market access in North America, Europe, and several former Soviet Republics. One of his passions is to analyze how disruptive industries and technologies allow consumers more choice at a lower cost. Fred is very interested in consumer choice and regulatory trends in the following industries: FMCG, Sharing Economy, Airlines. In 2014 he organized a protest in Berlin advocating for competition in the Taxi market. Fred has traveled to 100 countries and is looking forward to visiting the other half of the world’s countries. Among many op-eds and media appearances, he has been published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Wirtschaftswoche, Die Welt, the BBC, SunTV, ABC Portland News, Montreal Gazette, Handelsblatt, Huffington Post Germany, CityAM. L’Agefi, and The Guardian. Since 2012 he serves as an Associated Researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute.

The Beer Store Is Flat Out Wrong on Consumer Choice

Toronto, ON —On February 1st, Ontario’s public consultation on alcohol policy officially closed. The Ford Government sought out feedback on how Ontario could modernize its alcohol market. Unfortunately, some entities, like The Beer Store, have actively pushed back against increased consumer access. The Beer Store’s President Ted Moroz recently argued that if the province allows for beer sales in corner stores that “the price of beer in Ontario is likely to go up and 7,000 jobs are going to be put at risk across Ontario.”.

David Clement, Toronto based North American Affairs Manager of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said that “The Beer Store arguing against increased consumer access is nothing more than a crony institution clawing on to its selective benefits,” said Clement.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that The Beer Store continue to be shielded from competition. The legislation¬†and agreements that mandate this protection should be immediately addressed so Ontario consumers can have more choice when it comes to where they purchase beer,” said Clement.

“Moroz’s claim that increased competition will drive prices up, and put the entirety of The Beer Store’s workforce at risk is fearmongering and deceitful. Our hope is that Premier Doug Ford listens to consumers, and not The Beer Store, when it comes to how Ontario should modernize alcohol sales,” said Clement.

Beyond ignoring the ridiculous statements put forward by The Beer Store, we recommend that the Province do the following:

  • Rip up Ontario’s 10-year agreement with The Beer Store
  • End the LCBO’s monopoly on the sale of spirits
  • Allow for alcohol sales at businesses already trusted to sell age-restricted goods
  • Un-cap the number of licenses for alcohol retail
  • Eliminate price uniformity to encourage competition
  • Allow for retailers to purchase directly from producers

***CCC North American Affairs Manager David Clement is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues.

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.

‘Radical socialism’ and ‘cow farts’: Green New Deal opponents lash out as resolution gains momentum

THINK PROGRESS: “This outline of a Green New Deal is probably one of the most extreme attacks on consumer choice that could be conceived of in written form,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), in a statement.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Green New Deal, a future without consumer choice

Democratic lawmakers in Congress have unveiled the outline of a number of policies they’ve dubbed as the “Green New Deal”. The Green New Deal is a series of legislative proposals that will focus on massively transforming society in hopes of achieving a future with “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Green New Deal offers Americans a frightening future where there is no consumer choice.

This outline of a Green New Deal is probably one of the most extreme attacks on consumer choice that could be conceived of in written form. We all agree mitigating climate change is a noble and important goal, but centrally remaking the American economy and depriving millions of their ability to choose the goods and services they rely on is unfair.

Not only does the plan enforce mandates that will likely bankrupt a host of industries and severely reduce output, but it also proposes to massively expand governmental control of which goods and services are offered to consumers, and in what form. If the goals of the outline are achieved, they will effectively eliminate the capacity of consumers to choose what type of fuels, products, food, or vehicles they can buy, and likely much more.

Planning to eliminate vehicles that run on internal combustion engines within ten years and doing away with air travel in favor of high-speed rail is an antiquated vision that, if enforced with federal laws, would likely delay any meaningful innovations in alternative energy that consumers would otherwise be supporting in the marketplace.

Requiring every building in America be retrofitted to an impossible environmental standard will rob consumers of the choice to determine how, within current zoning rules, they can build or maintain their properties. Unreasonable emission restrictions on small farms will likely make it impossible to maintain current levels of food production, thus depriving consumers of the thousands of food items they rely on.

Much like the ‘shovel-ready’ jobs the ‘New Green Deal’ proposes to offer every American, we hope this proposal is shoveled as quickly as possible where it belongs: in the past.

YAËL OSSOWSKI  is the Deputy Director for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC). The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe, closely monitors regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and informs and activates consumers to fight for consumer choice.

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About Yaël Ossowski

Yaël Ossowski is a journalist, activist, and writer. He's currently deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center, and senior development officer for Students For Liberty. He was previously a national investigative reporter and chief Spanish translator at Watchdog.org, and worked at newspapers and television stations across the country. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (PPE) at the CEVRO Institute in Prague. Born in Québec and raised in the southern United States, he currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

Let consumers make informed choices about fur

Wearing fur is becoming more and more taboo. The issue is increasingly fraught and some large brands and fashion shows have decided to opt out of fur altogether.

It isn’t just firms and consumers making the choice to ditch fur. Fur farms are outlawed in many European countries, such as the UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, or Croatia. Some countries are in the process of phasing out fur production before a complete ban. Those include Belgium, Bosnia, the Netherlands, and Norway.

It’s perfectly fine not to like fur. And yes, in a free society you can yell at people in the street, telling them that their fur is evil. But for all your freedom to do so, you should also accept some realities about fur. For much of the campaign against fur is built on misapprehensions.

First, fake fur, which looks about the same for the non-expert consumer and which doesn’t necessitate animal farming, is not the harmless solution many take it to be. In an age in which every plastic bottle cup is demonised and outlawed, the environmentalist answer to fur is polyester. The same polyester decried as a major ocean pollutant. Fur on the other hand is a product with a long, yet circular approach: the fur on your winter coat is biodegradable. This is not a call to throw last year’s collection into the woods, but adding hair to compost is something you can indeed do.

In many countries, a large amount of fur is the by-product of meat production or hunting. In Germany, red fox hunting produces large amounts of fur as a by-product.

Yes, the fur and leather industry has an interest in selling their product, but the trade surrounding animal-derived fashion products affects millions of others in the supply-chain, including those working directly with animals involved. Be it indigenous Aborigines in Australia, pashmina (i.e. cashmere) producers and entire families involved in goat farming and fibre collection in the Kashmir region, or the 150,000 people associated with the python industry in Indonesia: people and animals are hurt when a ban is introduced, or companies drop fur products. These producers are the conservation specialists needed to maintain a population.

In a powerful recent op-ed, four conservation experts made exactly this point. They also argue: “Apparently, many millennials prefer to buy products that are “ethically sourced.” But the irony is that the economic use of wild animals is far more ecologically sustainable (i.e. ethical) than domestic animal production.”

And there are instances in which countries have failed on a regulatory level without imposing outright bans. Often, existing consumer and retail regulations are not been applied so consumers can make informed decisions about their purchases. Consumers are misinformed or outright lied to on the description of their clothing. Some producers have been negligent about this, others have sought to dupe consumers. However, responsible representatives of the industry itself have called for mandatory precise labelling of fur products and adequate enforcement in parliamentary hearings. Both law enforcement and producers have their role to play.

It is easy to demonise all consumers, but blatant bans will hurt both responsible farmers and consumers in their choice of buying fur products. Initiatives such as Furmark, an industry-led labelling system which uses independent and recognised experts from Baltic Control and NSF for animal welfare checks or ChainPoint as traceability systems, is an effective and logical solution that would help producers and consumers in the fur industry.

The idea that all fur is evil is a myth, and it doesn’t help consumer choice, wildlife protection, or responsible industry behaviour. Consumers should ask for responsible industry-led initiatives in order to have fruitful interaction between those who produce responsibly and those who wear. Screaming at customers won’t do anyone any good.C

Bill Wirtz is a Policy Analyst at Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://capx.co/let-consumers-make-informed-choices-about-fur/

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Here’s an idea for controlling drug prices: Restore market forces

Trump administration officials keep searching for solutions to rising prescription drug prices, which are increasing faster than inflation. “Drug makers and companies are not living up to their commitments on pricing. Not being fair to the consumer, or to our Country!” President Trump tweeted on Jan. 5.

Most of the administration’s suggested remedies have been threats or the imposition of various types of price controls. On Thursday, Jan. 31, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the department would propose a rule effectively ending the widespread practice of rebates, which the administration calls “hidden kickbacks,” to middlemen, or pharmacy benefit managers.

An administration that claims to be conservative should know better than to go down the path of innovation-stifling government intervention. Officials should also be savvy enough to know that responsible regulatory reform is a better way to foster pharmaceutical innovation, drive prices down, and help patients.

We suggest two ways to do that.

The first would be to correct a glitch in patent laws. The Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984 established an effective balance between the interests of brand-name and generic drug manufacturers. It created the abbreviated new drug application process that requires generic manufacturers to demonstrate only that the generic is “bioequivalent” to an approved brand drug and granted brand-name drugs certain periods of market exclusivity and patent term restoration.

That trade-off worked well. But in 2011, when technology patent trolls, who buy up patents but don’t intend actually to make a product, were wreaking havoc in the tech world, Congress attempted to protect true innovators by creating a new patent adjudication process called inter partes review, whereby patents could be challenged at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Congress didn’t intend IPR to disrupt Hatch-Waxman protections; rather, it intended to create a streamlined process to challenge technology patents, an area not governed by Hatch-Waxman.

But because IPR can also be used by challengers of drug patents, the process inadvertently created a form of double jeopardy, allowing pharmaceutical patent challengers to try their hand in two separate venues: both the federal courts and in IPR. The use of both adjudication forums not only raises fairness questions, but it also drives up the cost of branded medicines through unnecessary legal costs and greater uncertainty about the patent life of a drug.

To address that problem, last year, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act. Although it would not harmonize standards between venues or prevent drug patent challengers from using IPR, as might have been wise to do when IPR was created, it would require challengers to pick one legal venue and stick to it, thereby restoring the balance between promoting innovation and fostering generics. Congress should take up and pass the bill now.

Our second suggestion to lower prices is congressional authorization of drug-approval reciprocity among select foreign counterparts, giving patients rapid access to drugs that already have been proven to work safely in countries whose testing and review regimens are similar to our own. It would immediately put more drugs in the U.S. marketplace, providing additional choices for physicians and for institutions’ formularies.

The availability of more options means more competition, which would put downward pressure on prices.

Reciprocity would also alleviate shortages of critical drugs in the U.S., another driver of increased prices. An analysis by STAT News, published on Jan. 1, found a 27 percent increase in new drug shortages in 2018. According to an academic study published last year, “[t]hese shortages cause an estimated $230 million in additional costs each year because of the rising prices of drugs under shortage and the higher costs of substitute drugs.”

Reciprocity of approvals would make numerous needed alternative drugs available. It could have been in place decades ago, if only the Food and Drug Administration had met its long-standing commitment to pursue it through the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use.

Congress must step in, both to pass the Hatch-Waxman Integrity Act and to establish reciprocity of approvals. Market forces are more effective than bureaucrats’ price controls.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology. Mr. Stier is a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center.

Originally published at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/op-eds/heres-an-idea-for-controlling-drug-prices-restore-market-forces

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About Jeff Stier

Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. Mr. Stier has been a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. He is a guest on over 100 radio shows a year, including on NPR and top-rated major market shows in cities including Boston, Philadelphia, and Sacramento, plus syndicated regional broadcasts. Jeff’s op-eds have been published in top outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, and National Review Online.

Γιατί η Ευρώπη πρέπει να αφήσει τον Τραμπ να «κερδίσει» τον εμπορικό πόλεμο

Του Bill Wirtz

Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση δηλώνει ότι είναι έτοιμη να ανταποδώσει τα νέα δασμολογικά μέτρα που θα προτείνει / εφαρμόσει η κυβέρνηση Τραμπ. Το να αφήσει όμως τον Τραμπ να “κερδίσει” τον εμπορικό πόλεμο θα ήταν πολύ εξυπνότερο.

Ο Τραμπ και οι δασμοί

Η αναφορά του ονόματος του Τραμπ στις Βρυξέλλες (την πρωτεύουσα της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης) προκαλεί έντονες αντιδράσεις. Ο Τραμπ δεν είναι μόνο αντιδημοφιλής, αλλά και θεωρείται στην καλύτερη περίπτωση απληροφόρητος και στη χειρότερη κακόβουλος. Το αν αυτά είναι ακριβή είναι μια άλλη ιστορία, όμως η διαμάχη σχετικά με τον εμπορικό πόλεμο αποκαλύπτει το επίπεδο του αναστοχασμού στην Ευρώπη. Πολλά λέγονται για τους δασμούς που επιβάλλονται επί των ευρωπαϊκών προϊόντων, και η ρητορική των Βρυξελλών είναι πως οι Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες ξεκίνησαν πρώτες τον εμπορικό πόλεμο, υποχρεώνοντας την Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση σε ανταπόδοση.

Το γεγονός ότι η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση ήταν αυτή που εφάρμοσε πρώτη τους σημαντικότερους φραγμούς στο εμπόριο δεν τους πέρασε από το μυαλό.

Στις 18 Ιανουαρίου, η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση υιοθέτησε μια εντολή διαπραγμάτευσης για τις εμπορικές συνομιλίες με τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες. Οι Βρυξέλλες ανακοίνωσαν ότι κάθε νέο μέτρο δασμών που θα λαμβάνεται από την Ουάσινγκτον, θα αντιμετωπίζεται με επιβολή ανταποδοτικών δασμών στην Ευρώπη.

Η Επίτροπος Εμπορίου της ΕΕ Cecilia Malmström προειδοποίησε πως αν ο Τραμπ αποφασίσει να τιμωρήσει τους Ευρωπαίους στο εμπόριο “έχουμε προχωρήσει την εσωτερική μας προετοιμασία ώστε να ανταποδώσουμε. Αν συμβεί αυτό είμαστε έτοιμοι, και θα έχει ένα ιδιαίτερα επιβλαβές αποτέλεσμα στις διαπραγματεύσεις” όπως δήλωσε.

Ο ρόλος των τροφίμων

Κατά το διάστημα 2010-2014, οι ΗΠΑ και η ΕΕ διαπραγματεύτηκαν τη Διατλαντική Εμπορική και Επενδυτική Σχέση (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – ΤΤΙΡ). Οι διαπραγματεύσεις τερματίστηκαν μετά από έντονες διαμαρτυρίες στην Ευρώπη που πίεσαν τις Βρυξέλλες να διακόψουν τις συνομιλίες. Καταστροφολόγοι ακτιβιστές εναντίον της ελευθερίας του εμπορίου προειδοποίησαν τους Ευρωπαίους έναντι της απειλής της εισαγωγής αγαθών από τις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες, όπως τροφίμων γενετικών μεταλλαγμένων οργανισμών.

Η εισαγωγή όμως τροφίμων που παρήχθησαν βάσει διαφορετικών προτύπων από τους κανονισμούς της ΕΕ δεν “υπονομεύει” κατ’ ελάχιστο τα ευρωπαϊκά πρότυπα. Εφόσον οι καταναλωτές γνωρίζουν την προέλευση των προϊόντων, η αμοιβαία αναγνώριση των προτύπων δεν απειλεί την νομοθεσία κανενός μέρους.

Μια έκθεση της Foodwatch, μιας γερμανικής ΜΚΟ που υποτίθεται ότι υπερασπίζεται τους καταναλωτές, αντιμετωπίζει ομοίως την ιδέα του ελεύθερου εμπορίου με περιφρόνηση. Αυτό καταφαίνεται με σαφήνεια σε ένα κεφάλαιο που αφορά τις εμπορικές σχέσεις του Μεξικού στη σελίδα 47. Οι ερευνητές γράφουν:

“Το 2001, το Μεξικό εισήγαγε έναν φόρο επί όλων των αναψυκτικών που χρησιμοποιούν γλυκαντικά εκτός της ζάχαρης από ζαχαροκάλαμο (πχ με ζάχαρη από τεύτλα, ή ισογλυκόζη, ένα σιρόπι που κατασκευάζεται από άμυλο καλαμποκιού ή σταριού). Η εξαίρεση των αναψυκτικών που χρησιμοποιούν ζάχαρη από ζαχαροκάλαμο προστάτευσε την παραγωγή ζαχαροκάλαμου της χώρας”.

Στη συνέχεια, εξηγούν ότι αυτού του είδους οι φόροι απειλούνται από τους εμπορικούς κανόνες του ΠΟΕ και ότι οι λομπίστες του κλάδου αντιτάσσονται σ’ αυτούς υποστηρίζοντας ότι αποτελούν “μια μορφή εμπορικής αρνητικής διάκρισης”. Η ΕΕ βεβαίως είναι γνωστή για τις πρακτικές εμπορικής διάκρισης που εφαρμόζει και έχουν ως στόχο την προστασία των δικών της παραγωγών, όπως τη διαβόητη απαγόρευση του βοδινού κρέατος που έχει υποστεί επεξεργασία με την ορμόνη 17β-οιστραδιόλη. Αυτού του είδους ο γεωργικός προστατευτισμός είναι πάντα ένα μείζον διαφιλονικούμενο σημείο στις εμπορικές διαπραγματεύσεις, οπότε είναι σίγουρα παράδοξο να αναδεικνύεται από τους ακτιβιστές εναντίον του εμπορίου.

Ο τόνος της έκθεσης υπογραμμίζεται από την παρακάτω δήλωση ενός από τους συγγραφείς της, του Thomas Fritz κατά τη συνέντευξη τύπου της Foodwatch: “Το συμπέρασμά μας είναι ότι λόγω αυτών των Συμφωνιών Ελεύθερου Εμπορίου, το εμπόριο τροφίμων όντως πιθανότατα θα αυξηθεί και μαζί μ’ αυτό θα αυξηθούν και οι κίνδυνοι για τους καταναλωτές και το περιβάλλον”.

Ξεχάστε τις ανησυχίες για τη δημοκρατία, τις δικαστικές διαδικασίες ή ακόμη και τα πρότυπα των τροφίμων: αυτοί οι ακτιβιστές αντιτάσσονται στο ελεύθερο εμπόριο ούτως ή άλλως, γιατί αυξάνει το εμπόριο τροφίμων. Για ποιον ακριβώς “κίνδυνο για τους καταναλωτές” μιλάμε; Τον κίνδυνο των περισσότερων επιλογών; Και σε ποιον ακριβώς “κίνδυνο” εκθέτουμε τους παραγωγούς της Νότιας Αμερικής; Στον κίνδυνο να αυξηθεί η παραγωγή και η οικονομική τους ευημερία;

Να αφήσουμε τον Τραμπ να “κερδίσει”, αψηφώντας τους ακτιβιστές που αντιτάσσονται στο ελεύθερο εμπόριο

Τι θα χρειαζόταν να γίνει για να “κερδίσει” ο Ντόναλντ Τραμπ τον εμπορικό πόλεμο; Ουσιαστικά, ο Τραμπ υποστηρίζει την εξάλειψη όλων των δασμολογικών και μη δασμολογικών φραγμών. Το μόνο που χρειάζεται να κάνει η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση είναι να πει στον Τραμπ “κέρδισες” και να ανακαλέσει τα ανταποδοτικά μέρα που εισήγαγε στο παρελθόν. Αυτό θα ανοίξει την αγορά προσφέροντας φθηνότερα προϊόντα στους Ευρωπαίους καταναλωτές και θα επιτρέψει στον Τραμπ να προσεγγίσει τον στόχο του μιας βάσης μηδενικών δασμών.

Αυτό όμως δεν πρόκειται να συμβεί καθώς η έννοια της “νίκης” είναι στον ίδιο βαθμό πολιτικοποιημένη στις Βρυξέλλες όσο και σε μια πολιτική συγκέντρωση του Τραμπ. ¨Ετσι, την επόμενη φορά που θα δείτε να γυρίζουν τα μάτια στην Ευρώπη όταν αναφέρεται ο εμπορικός πόλεμος, έχετε κατά νου ότι κι εδώ στη Γηραιά Ήπειρο, η κατάσταση δεν είναι στην πραγματικότητα καλύτερη.

Ο Bill Wirtz είναι Young Voices Advocate και εργάζεται ως αναλυτής πολιτικών στο Consumer Choice Center.

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About Bill Wirtz

Bill Wirtz is policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center, based in Brussels, Belgium. Originally from Luxembourg, his articles have appeared across the world in English, French, German, and Luxembourgish. He is Editor-in-Chief of Speak Freely, the blog of European Students for Liberty, a contributing editor for the Freedom Today Network and a regular contributor for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He blogs regularly on his website in four languages.

Ottawa is baking a bitter taste into its rules around edibles

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

In December, the federal government released draft regulations around the production and sale of edible cannabis products and launched a consultation period for industry and the public that ends Feb. 20. Ottawa’s goal is to gather feedback that will guide it in efforts to minimize health and safety risks.

However, by naming the consultation period the “Strict Regulation of Edible Cannabis, Extracts and Topicals” the government has essentially tipped its hand to some major holes in its proposed regulatory framework.

The first major issue with the edible regulations is the 10-milligram/THC per-package limit on edible products, which means consumers won’t be able to purchase edibles in bulk. Rather than have a 10mg per-package limit, the limitation should be 10mg a unit or serving, with multiple servings permitted within a single package. Having a limit of 10mg a unit would serve the government’s goal of trying to prevent overconsumption, while still allowing for consumers to purchase products in bulk when convenient.

A limit of 10mg a unit would also bring Canada in line with jurisdictions such as Colorado when it comes to edible regulations. Not making this change will mean that edible products will be insanely overpackaged, just like the packaging requirements for dried cannabis products. All that aside, there is still a looming question as to why a limit needs to exist in the first place. Simply look at alcohol content restrictions and it becomes quite clear that there is an obvious double standard at play here.

The second major issue with the new proposed regulations is the revised personal carry limit for these newly legal products. The new maximum package size and personal carry limit will be 7.5 grams. From a consumer’s perspective, this makes a bad law worse, given that the penalty for violating this can be upward of five years in prison. When we consider that other substances don’t have personal carry limits, it’s questionable whether cannabis should have a limit at all.

The existence of a carry limit could also have some serious criminal-justice and social-justice implications. We know that cannabis possession fines and arrests disproportionately effected minorities in Canadian during the lead up to legalization. We also know from U.S. data that cannabis offences in states where cannabis is legal are disproportionately applied to black and latino Americans. The existence, and further complication, of a personal carry limit will most likely affect marginalized communities the most, just as the war on drugs has.

The third issue is that the new regulations maintain, for the most part, the government’s silly plain-packaging and branding restrictions. This means that edibles, extracts and topicals will have almost no branding and will have neutral packaging. The purpose of maintaining this is to try and discourage use. The problem with this approach is that brands convey knowledge to consumers. Branding helps consumers better understand the taste, impact and overall experience of a product. Branding matters, especially for cannabis products, because most consumers are new to cannabis. Branding allows for companies to convey information and knowledge to consumers, which increases the likelihood that consumers make appropriate and informed decisions for themselves. Just as with personal carry limits, the regulatory structure for alcohol regarding branding shows another giant double standard. There is no rational reason why cannabis branding and packaging should be more limited than products that contain alcohol. Regulating cannabis in this way is incredibly paternalistic and completely disregards the continuum of risk between alcohol and cannabis.

Beyond what is written in the draft regulations, there are also issues with what the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation recommended be put into the regulations. For example, the task force has suggested that cannabis edibles should be prohibited from mimicking, or looking like, regular food items. If taken at face value, this would mean that items such as cookies, brownies or any other confectionery, would be prohibited. If adopted, this would be just another example of the government overstepping when it comes to how it treats adult consumers.

Waiting a year to legalize edibles, extracts and topicals was bad public policy from the perspective of harm reduction. These forms of consumption are much less risky than smoking cannabis. Now that these new products are soon to become legal, it unfortunately looks as if the federal government is destined to make what are glaring policy errors, all at the expense of adult consumers.

Originally published at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/robcannabispro/article-ottawa-is-baking-a-bitter-taste-into-its-rules-around-edibles/

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About David Clement

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager for the Consumer Choice Center and is based out of Oakville, Ontario. David holds a BA in Political Science and a MA in International Relations from Wilfrid Laurier University. Previously, David was the Research Assistant to the Canada Research Chair in International Human Rights. David has been regularly featured on the CBC, Global News, The Toronto Star and various other major Canadian news outlets.