Legalizzazione cannabis:il Lussemburgo si propone come apripista in Europa

A sottolineare questo aspetto è stato Bill Wirtz, analista politico del gruppo Consumer Choice Centre, un gruppo per i diritti dei consumatori con sede in Lussemburgo, che ha dichiarato:” il Lussemburgo diventerà il primo paese dell’UE a legalizzare la cannabis, perché la Repubblica Ceca, il Portogallo, la Spagna o i Paesi Bassi tollerano o hanno solo depenalizzato. Questo invia un messaggio forte agli altri Paesi nell’UE. Il ghiaccio è rotto”.

Infatti come fa notare giustamente Wirtz, questa decisione è molto strategica e potrebbe far nascere un mercato creativo legato alla cannabis, come ha provato a fare la Svizzera, anche se quest’ultima ha posto dei limiti alla percentuale di Thc all 1%.


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.

Rice tariffs who are we kidding on the EU’s free trade

The European Union introduces tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar in an effort to protect Italien farmers. Another example of “free trade” à la European Union.

It was announced last Wednesday that tariffs on rice from Cambodia and Myanmar were being re-introduced, in order to fulfil safeguard clauses. The terminology here is telling. European farmers are supposed to be “safeguarded” from foreign competition. It was at the request of Italy the Commission already suggested structural tariffs in November, those starting at €175/tonne in the first year and then progressively dropping to €150 in the second year and €125 in the third year.

Back then, the proposal didn’t find a majority in the Council, and therefore bounced back to Berlaymont, which now confirmed its initial intention. Until now, Cambodia and Myanmar benefitted from the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) trade scheme, which unilaterally grants duty-and quota-free access to the world’s least developed countries (apart from arms and ammunition).

Italian MEP Tiziana Beghin said, according to Politico, that she had been fighting for a safeguard to protect Italian farmers since 2014, and said that the news was a “relief” for more than 4,000 enterprises and families.

The Five Star Member of the European Parliament surely completed a smart political move for her constituants, which benefit from new tariffs, or who have been misled into supporting them. More misled however have been those who for the longest time have believed that the goal of the European Union was to be in favour of free trade. What a disappointment that must be.

The European Commission writes in its press release:

“The initial request for trade safeguards on rice imports was tabled by the Italian government in February 2018 and supported by all other EU rice growing Member States (Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria).”

It is written in this way because either the Commission has absolutely no notion of what it means to have a vested interest, or because it realises itself that free trade does not exist in the European Union.

While rice-producing member states are naturally lobbied by their local rice farmers, consumers have nobody to speak on their behalf. Too many of the established consumer organizations have nothing to say on tariffs. In fact, it seems all too often that they back the protectionist far-left and far-right positions, in order to “protect jobs” and “support local production”.

To them, consumer prices seem irrelevant. In fact, the European consumer organization BEUC has nothing to say at all about the EU’s re-introduction on rice tariffs. Does it not matter to them that it is low-income consumers who will be hit the hardest by this form of indirect taxation?

This is not the first time this happens. The European Union constantly introduces new tariffs, and many have been added since the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The reasons are diverse: often it is because the producing country is accused of subsidizing their local economy (which the EU does also through the Common Agricultural Policy), but a safeguard measure can be as blatantly protectionist as in the example of rice imports from Cambodia and Myanmar.

If you were to suggest something similar on a national level, you’d be accused of nationalism. If done on a Brussels-level, it is merely a safeguard.

Protectionism is purely ideological because it is based on sentimental beliefs. If we were to take nationalism out of the picture, it would be difficult to argue that international free trade would be disadvantageous while domestic free trade (say, between cantons or provinces) is advantageous. This is particularly true in large trading blocs such as the European Union. Aren’t French farmers also hurt by imports from Bulgaria?

And if internal subsidization processes of the EU are working to eliminate those differences within the bloc, then how is Bulgaria supposed to rise out of its economic hardships, if nobody can ever compete with Western Europe, make a profit and innovate? And what is the big threat anyway, when cheap food for our consumers is the result?

The price for the economic illiteracy of this entire process is footed by the European consumer, who is told that the Trump’s of the world are the problem with free trade. And while Washington D.C’s trade politics have indeed changed for the worse, they’re unparalleled in their doublespeak by an EU pretending to stand for free trade in the world, while catering to local interests in order to keep the bloc together.


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.

Why Europe Should Let Trump “Win” on Trade

All the European Union needs to do is to tell the administration “you won” and drop the retaliatory measures.

The European Union says it’s ready to retaliate against new tariff measures proposed/instituted by the Trump administration. However, letting Trump “win” the trade war would be far smarter.

Trump and Tariffs

Mentioning Trump’s name in Brussels (the capital of the European Union) produces a lot of eye-rolls. Trump is not only unpopular, but he is also regarded as being uninformed at best and having malicious intent at worst. Whether or not those things are accurate is a story for another time, but the trade war debate reveals the level of self-reflection in Europe. Much is said about the tariffs imposed on European goods, and the narrative in Brussels is that the United States started the trade war, forcing the European Union to retaliate.

The fact that the European Union initiated the most important trade barriers didn’t occur to them.

On January 18, the European Union adopted a negotiating mandate for the trade talks with the United States. Brussels announced that every new tariff measure by Washington, DC, would be met with retaliatory tariffs in Europe.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström warned that if Trump decides to punish Europeans on trade, “we are very advanced in our internal preparations” to retaliate. “Should that happen, we are ready, it would have a very damaging effect on the negotiations,” she said.

What’s Food Got to Do with It?

Between 2010 and 2014, the US and the EU negotiated the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The negotiations ended after considerable public protests in Europe pressured Brussels to break-off the talks. Fear-mongering anti-free trade activists warned the public about the threat of importing goods from the United States, such as GMO foods.

However, importing goods produced to different standards than EU norms does not in the least “undermine” EU standards. Provided consumers are aware of the origin of their products, mutual recognition of standards poses no threat to anyone’s legislation.

report by Foodwatch, a German NGO pretending to stand for consumers, also treats the idea of free trade with contempt. This is well illustrated in a chapter on Mexican trade relations on page 47. The researchers write:

In 2001 Mexico introduced a tax on all soft drinks flavoured with sweeteners other than cane sugar (e.g. with beet sugar or isoglucose, a syrup made from corn or wheat starch). The exception for drinks sweetened with cane sugar protected the country’s own sugar cane production.

They continue by explaining that such taxes are being challenged under WTO trade rules and that industry lobbyists oppose them through the claim of “a form of trade discrimination.” The EU, of course, is well-known for trade discriminatory practices aimed at protecting its own producers, including its famous ban on beef treated with the estradiol-17β hormone.These activists would oppose free trade no matter what because it increases food trade.

Such agricultural protection is always a major sticking point in trade negotiations, so it is certainly an odd point for anti-trade activists to bring up.

The report’s tenor is exemplified by this statement from one of its authors, Thomas Fritz, during the Foodwatch press conference:

Our conclusion is that due to these FTAs [Free Trade Agreements], food trade is indeed likely to grow, along with the risks posed to the consumer and the environment.

Forget concerns about democracy, judicial procedures, or even those of food standards: these activists would oppose free trade no matter what because it increases food trade. “The risk to the consumer”—what risk are we talking about? The risk of falling food prices and increased quality? The risk of expanded choice? And to what “risk” are we exposing the producers in South America to? The risk of increased production and economic prosperity?

Defy Anti-Free Trade Activists, Let Trump “Win”

What would it take for Donald Trump to “win” the trade war? In essence, Trump supports getting rid of all tariff and non-tariff barriers. All the European Union needs to do is to tell the administration “you won” and drop the previously introduced retaliatory measures. This would open the market and provide cheaper goods for European consumers and enable Trump to approach his goal of a zero-tariff basis.

But that isn’t going to happen because the notion of “winning” is as politicized in Brussels as it is during a Trump rally. So next time you receive eye rolls at the mention of the trade war in Europe, recognize that over here on the old continent, we aren’t really any better.

Originally published at


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.

How protectionism hinders progress

Imagine you’ve been on the team with the same people for decades, growing rice let’s say. You are well aware of the capabilities of your colleagues, and you are on good terms with your boss. More importantly, you have developed a working schedule for yourself, and have been sticking to it deliberately – repeating the same tasks day by day without attempting to improve the quality of their performance. You have been doing fine, just like everyone else on your team. 

One morning, your boss announces that there is a new employee or group of employees from abroad joining the team. Naturally, every well-established tribe is suspicious or even hostile towards newcomers, especially if it’s not accustomed to dealing with changes. You and your colleagues will, therefore, try to find a way to persuade your boss to change their mind. After all, why hire someone new, or why alter anything at all, if you and your consumers are doing fine

On their first day, the newcomers carefully examine your workplace and conclude that your team’s productivity and attitudes are completely outdated and have been far behind world progress for years. Added to that, they find out that the prices you charge are much higher than those in countries where they come from, and that your consumers are of course unaware of that. Their impression is that your boss has been consistently covering for you in order to “protect” you from competition. They are determined to change it: they suggest more innovation, lower prices to the benefit of consumers, and the elimination of the fine mentality. 

After careful consideration, your boss chooses to implement their recommendation of competition. They get excited about taking your industry to the next level and about the variety of choices they can offer to their consumers with the help of the new model. However, the chances of you and your colleagues getting fired are high.

Now, let me translate this into politics and tell you that the boss is the government, and they are choosing free trade over protectionism. You are, therefore, going to blame the policy of free trade for the loss of your job. But is that really so?

In 1942, Austrian political economist Joseph Schumpeter explained: “The opening up of new markets, foreign, or domestic … revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

However merciless it may sound, creative destruction underlines every stage of progress in every sphere of our life. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy Apple products or companies like Uber and Airbnb if they hadn’t succeeded in disrupted the established order of the time.

Most importantly, even though these businesses are on top of the tide right now, there will inevitably come the moment when they will get swept away by that very tide if they stop innovating – just as libraries are being replaced by Wikipedia, bookshops by Kindle, traditional taxis by Uber, and all sorts of driving cars by Google driverless cars. There are people behind these developments who have lost their jobs and who tried to oppose progress as much as possible – people who called for protection?

Progress has harsh means at its disposal, but let’s be honest, now that civilisation has progressed so far, can we all agree that the benefits of it are much higher than the costs? A hint: you’re reading this on your phone, tablet, or a laptop.

Plainly speaking, progress is any kind of development pursuing a better outcome than the existing order. Free trade, therefore, is another expression of progress, and that’s why it’s opposed by industries that stopped innovating long ago and are afraid of getting wiped out. These industries do fine thanks to government subsidies, tariffs, or quotas. 

The issue with free trade, as with every progress-oriented initiative, is that it’s difficult to draw a clear line between short-run costs and long-run gains. The short-run costs do include the destruction of some jobs. As mentioned earlier, progress comes at a price.

Let’s look at the manufacturing industry, which is usually the loudest in anti-free trade debates. Most of the job losses in manufacturing, according to Michael J. Hicks and Srikant Devaraj, didn’t come directly from the abolishments of import restrictions, but from progress in another closely related area: technology. According to the findings of the report, only 13 per cent of job losses in the US manufacturing industry from 2000 to 2010 were caused by international trade. 

Speaking of the long-run gains, while the employment in the manufacturing industry dropped, the number of full-time employees in the US has increased by almost 20 million people since 1991. Moreover, GDP went up as well.

Progress has a cost, and people swept off by its tide are generally unable to accept the benefits of free trade. However, while attempting to protect one group of people and focusing exclusively on short-run costs, protectionism is only functioning to prevent progress. Does any reasonable consumer want to be protected from lower prices and a greater diversity of products?

However, free trade has something for everyone. With market dynamics increasing, the disruption brought by free trade brings in countless opportunities to find our place in a brave, new world. It’s high time we learned to welcome new competitive team members, not seek protection from their ambitions. Maybe then we won’t just settle for fine, we will strive for greatness.

Sin taxes are taxes on the poor

Nanny-state types know this. They just don’t care.

In Britain, Europe and across the world, taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugar are used by governments to try to push people into what they deem to be healthier lifestyles.

Indeed, nanny-state policies are infesting Europe through its political institutions. In a recent memo, the European Commission set out plans to get rid of unanimity voting within the European Council on matters of taxation, and introduce qualified-majority voting ‘as a useful tool to progress tax measures’ regarding ‘fighting climate change, protecting the environment or improving public health’.

But ‘improving public health’ is all too often a cover for simply raising taxes on the poorest in society. That so-called sin taxes are regressive isn’t even disputed, as the Institute of Economic Affairs made clear in a report last year. And public-health advocates know this.

The investor and former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg (net worth: $47 billion), is now ‘global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases’ of the World Health Organisation. He is a vocal advocate of sin taxes on an international level. Last year, his organisation Bloomberg Philanthropies announced a task force to promote lifestyle regulations across the globe, including, among others, the Norwegian minister of health, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Tabaré Vázquez, president of Uruguay.

In a panel at the International Monetary Fund last year, Bloomberg addressed the question of regressive sin taxes. ‘Some people say, well, taxes are regressive’, he said. ‘But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money.’

IMF managing director and chair Christine Lagarde chipped in at the end of the clip: ‘So it’s regressive, it is good. There are lots of tax experts in the room… And they all say that two things in life which are absolutely certain. One is death, the other one is tax. So you use one to defer the other one.’

‘That’s correct. That is exactly right. Well said’, adds Bloomberg.

Whenever sin taxes are introduced, so-called public-health advocates will always be among those least affected by them – they will still be able to afford as much tobacco, chocolate or alcohol as they like.

That is not the case for the poorest in society: like any other consumption tax, it’s the poor who are most affected by sin taxes, since they spend a larger proportion of their income on these goods, in comparison to higher earners.

Not only are sin taxes deeply patronising, a case of the rich deciding what it is acceptable for the poor to consume; they are also, simply put, socially unjust.

Consumers should be allowed to enjoy themselves. Yes, we should all be made aware of the health risks associated with our lifestyles. But, ultimately, it should be up to each of us to choose for ourselves what we consume.

We need to stick up for this right more than ever. Public-health advocates are now even pushing for taxes on red meat. And they won’t stop there. Nanny-state types always find a new angle through which they might ruin everything that is enjoyable.

Bill Wirtz is a policy analyst for the Consumer Choice Center. Follow him on Twitter: @wirtzbill

Originally published at


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.

Global consumer advocate says legal pot is good for communities

The Consumer Choice Center is confirming what marijuana advocates have been saying for a long time.

It said smart regulation of cannabis will reduce violent crime and boost economic gains. Those are some of the findings in its policy paper on the regulation of cannabis.

“It is clear that legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational consumption has boosted consumer choice and, at the same time, successfully deterred continued crime and black market activity throughout North America,” said Toronto-based Consumer Choice North American Affairs Manager David Clement.

The center said the latest research demonstrates that legalizing cannabis helps reduce overall levels of violent crime, as has been the case in the State of Washington. According to researchers, medical marijuana laws in California were found to have reduced both violent and property crime by 20 per cent.

“We stress the importance of smart regulatory policy in each jurisdiction where it is considered, and pieced together important lessons and recommendations that policy-makers should heed in their next steps to create a legal and safe market for cannabis,” added Clement.

The center’s policy paper examines cannabis policy recommendations for retail regulations, public consumption laws, selling to non-residents, taxation, grower licences, and branding. Among them are opening private retail stores, allowing public consumption in the same places as tobacco, creating cannabis lounges and establishments, investing in educational resources for minors and at-risk consumers, keeping taxation reasonably low, and allowing public advertising and freedom of branding.

The Consumer Choice Center promotes economic freedom and empowers consumers to raise their voice. It said regulators keep regulating more and more areas of consumers’ lives, leading to less consumer choice and usually higher costs.

Originally published at


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.

Davos: al summit del capitalismo globale la protagonista è la cannabis

E’ considerato il summit del capitalismo globale, dove si incontrano banchieri, Ceo e capi di Stato e di governo. Quest’anno è stato invaso dalla cannabis, con incontri e tavole rotonde perché è ormai uno dei più promettenti settori economici, con rapide prospettive di crescita in grado di attirare l’interesse degli investitori internazionali.

Da oggi a giovedì 24 gennaio al World Economic Forum saranno presenti molti dei leader di settore per la manifestazione che ospiterà un “Cannabis Conclave”, oltre a un “Cannatech Pavilon”, ultimo di una serie di eventi CannaTech ospitati in tutto il mondo dalla società israeliana di cannabis iCAN, che sarà ospitato nella “Canada Cannabis House” con numerosi incontri a tema.

Il 24 si terrà invece il Cannabis Conclave, organizzato da The Consumer Choice Center, dalla mattina fino al pomeriggio, e partecipanti non saranno solo dell’industria della cannabis, tra i quali è comunque prevista la partecipazione di Bruce Linton di Canopy Growth, ma includeranno anche investitori attuali e futuri, rappresentanti di vari settori, giornalisti, autorità di regolamentazione e politici.


Conclave da Cannabis é realizado junto a Fórum Mundial em Davos

Com proposta de discutir a globalização, Fórum Econômico Mundial, em Davos, na Suíça, recebe a elite global, que terá a oportunidade de conversar com outra elite, a da maconha, em evento chamado Conclave da Cannabis.

Conclave da Cannabis

A elite global que está presente em Davos para o encontro anual do Fórum Econômico Mundial se junta a um novo grupo: a elite da maconha.

Um grupo de executivos de empresas e ex-políticos, todos envolvidos na florescente indústria da cannabis, participa do que está sendo anunciado com o primeiro “Conclave da Cannabis”, um encontro que será realizado em um restaurante alpino acessível apenas por teleférico.

Os participantes do evento serão capazes de “ouvir percepções dos principais executivos e investidores da cannabis enquanto desfrutam de um almoço suíço”.

Segundo artigo do Financial Post, entre os convidados para o almoço estão o ex-primeiro ministro israelense Ehud Barak, que é presidente da companhia de maconha medicinal InterCure, de Israel, e Bruce Linton, CEO da Canopy Growth Corp.

Este ano marca a primeira vez que os eventos de cannabis, atraindo membros proeminentes da indústria, estão sendo mantidos à margem do Fórum Econômico Mundial, um sinal de crescente legitimidade do setor global de maconha.

#PraCegoVer: arte de divulgação do evento onde pode-se o nome “Cannabis Conclave” em cinza azulado, ao centro e no topo, e, logo abaixo o texto “Davos, Switzerland, 24/01/2019” em branco; ao fundo vemos uma fotografia dos Alpes Suíços e seus vilarejos e, no rodapé, os logos dos patrocinadores.

O banco canadense de investimentos Canaccord Genuity, uma das primeiras empresas de investimento a se envolver em negociações de maconha, é co-patrocinador da Cannabis Conclave, junto com o Consumer Choice Center, organização sediada em Bruxelas que se autodenomina “uma organização de defesa do consumidor para mobilizar a geração do milênio contra uma regulamentação sobrecarregada que limita a escolha”.

Vários líderes da indústria presentes no Conclave da Cannabis também estão na programação para participarem de um segundo evento do setor de maconha chamado Canada Cannabis House, patrocinado por Canadian Securities Exchange e OTC Markets Group Inc.