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Consumer Choice Champions: The Legislators Fighting Michigan Governor’s Vape Ban

Earlier this month, the state of Michigan took the unprecedented step of outlawing the sale of all vaping and e-cigarette products.

This move will deprive millions of Michiganders of the opportunity to switch away from more harmful methods of consuming nicotine.

Since the ban was announced unilaterally by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, several committee hearings have been held in the capital of Lansing to discuss the broader issue of vaping’s effects on health, nicotine, and teen access to these products.

Witnesses have provided testimony on the effectiveness of vaping products, how they saved their lives, and why a ban on flavors will directly lead to more harm for thousands of former smokers.

Once such testimony, by Mark Slis, a scientist, vape shop owner, and former smoker in Houghton County, has since gone viral.

Some lawmakers, as a result of these hearings, have taken it upon themselves to fight against the governor’s rash ban.

On Thursday, a bill was introduced in the Michigan State House of Representatives to rescind the ban and to limit the governor’s authority to carry out such orders without properly consulting the State Legislature.

Led by State Rep. Beau LaFave from the Upper Peninsula, the other co-sponsors on the bill were State Reps. Greg Markkanen, Steven Johnson, Matt Maddock, Gary Eisen, Jack O’Malley, Aaron Miller, and Luke Meerman.

“I am getting frustrated with the governor’s double-speak,” said primary bill sponsor LaFave. “First she said she was going to ban flavored e-cigarettes immediately, then after intense public pressure, she decided her administration would take two months to reevaluate. Unfortunately, New York has announced it will implement a similar ban. In a rush to be the first state in the nation to implement this stupid policy, the governor has changed her mind once again, and ordered all businesses to destroy millions of dollars in merchandise within 14 days.”

“I don’t care if the executive is a Republican or Democrat nor a governor or president,” said LaFave. “Bad public policies implemented without input from lawmakers should never be ignored. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to look at all the facts before we rush to judgement and put thousands of Michiganders out of work and force thousands more back to smoking combustible cigarettes.”

The bill has now been sent to the Committee on Government Operations and will be heard next week.

Two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy

The warm months are delivering some great news when it comes to increased consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy across North America.

ONTARIO

The first success story comes from the Canadian province of Ontario, where Premier Doug Ford has announced the end of the province’s exclusive contract with The Beer Store, the beer monopoly.

When announcing the policy, Ontario Finance Minister Victor Fedeli quoted the words of Consumer Choice Center North American Affairs Manager David Clement, who has contributed to the debate to open up beer sales across the province.

This positive move comes on the same day the government announced it would be expanding alcohol sales in LCBO stores across the province, after which Clement says “consumers across the province would appreciate more access to alcoholic drinks over the summer months.

The Consumer Choice Center played a pivotal role is shaping the policy debate in favor of modernized alcohol policy and consumer choice, and will continue to do so across the country.

“Today’s alcohol announcement is a step in the right direction,” said David Clement. “The move helps underserved regions, while maxing out the amount of grocery stores allowed under the Master Framework Agreement (MFA). It is positive to see these changes while the province undergoes the process of scrapping the MFA and allowing for alcohol sales in convenience stores.”

“We are hopeful that the announcement could increase access over the summer months, which would definitely be appreciated by consumers province-wide.” said Clement.

NORTH CAROLINA

Following the positive vibes from the Great White North, the state of North Carolina also had a major alcohol policy modernization pass.

Last Thursday Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 363, the Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act. The law will allow craft brewers to self-distribute more than twice was allowed previously without a wholesaler.

That measure will allow breweries to expand and ship more product across the state, giving North Carolina consumers greater access to their favorite craft brews.

I have written about this topic for the Charlotte Observer (here and here) and been interviewed about it on the radio on the Joe Catenacci Show and the Chad Adams Show.

Much like above, there is still a lot that needs to be done to have a true modern alcohol policy in the Tar Heel State. Ending the state’s monopoly of ABC stores (that sell liquor) would be prime, and the next would be allowing distilleries to offer and sell their products on site and for delivery.

Regardless, these are two big victories for consumer choice and modernized alcohol policy, giving consumers more of a say, more choice, and better options!

Democratising travel

The #HandsOffMyCheapFlights campaign is about more than just what its name suggests. Cheap flights are what consumers know and love about air travel in the past years, but it is the overall phenomenon of democratised travel that should have us stand in awe. For people in upper-middle-class and wealthy conditions, the world was just the purchase of a ticket away for much longer. Whether it’s €300 or €30 to Milan, doesn’t really make much of a difference to them. So to the privileged (you’ll excuse the word) eye, travelling has remained the same, with one notable change: there are more people on the airport. Shockingly, it’s low-income consumers who suddenly fly into the same airport as the privileged travellers. It takes more time to get your suitcase, getting through security is a hassle, and for goodness sake, you can’t even get a seat while waiting to board.

No wonder some people are a bit annoyed. But saying that you don’t want people to fly just so that you don’t have to pay for fast-track security control isn’t marketable, so sustainability comes into play. What about all the noise and pollution? Don’t bother considering the fact that innovation in the aviation sector is continuously improving fuel efficiency, since carriers have no incentive to waste kerosene needlessly. Also, don’t mention that improved aircrafts, more efficient flight routes, and reduced speeds have made the sector much more efficient than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

That’s all a bit hyperbolic, and you’ll maybe even consider it bad faith. And maybe it is.

But for some reason, not everyone rejoices at the democratisation of travel. In a time in which the debate about inequality is so predominant, we’re not lending an ear to consumers who want to go on holidays, or visit a friend, just as much as all those with higher income than them. Modern aviation has made it possible, yet activists and governments around the world are there to roll this back.

The Consumer Choice Center fights the EU departure tax from the beginning. We will stand up for consumers who want to have choices when it comes to the means of transportation. We are making people aware that flights are emitting much less carbon than they were in the past, and that this level innovation is set to continue in the future. If however, we choose to limit this development in an effort to answer to alarmism, then we will inevitably fail.

Let’s not let that happen.

The Unlikely Saving Grace of British Cannabis

The global crusade against cannabis is finally beginning to falter. As the attitudes of citizens and lawmakers alike begin to soften, the prospects of full legalisation have gone from a stoner’s pipe-dream (if you’ll pardon the pun) to very feasible in only a couple of years. With a fifth of the US legalising the plant for recreational use, alongside Canada and Uruguay, as well as numerous European states opting to decriminalise its use, progress has been quick and promising.

This is cause for optimism. Newly-legal markets in the US and Canada have already seen booms in market growth and innovation, not to mention the positive effects of decriminalisation on the harm felt by users. In decriminalising or outright legalising cannabis, legislators in such countries have helped foster an environment in which entrepreneurship and consumer well-being are welcomed and encouraged.

But there’s still work to do. In many countries, reluctance to embrace cannabis is preventing them from enjoying the benefits felt by more committed nations. Legislators are, all too often, unable or unwilling to properly ride the green wave, preferring instead to watch from the pier.

Italy, for example, is a victim of this lack of commitment. Vagueness surrounding the legality of Italian hemp and cannabis has made it far more difficult for entrepreneurs and investors to know where they stand, damaging their confidence and potential to create a flourishing market. As such, progress has been far slower in Italy (a country which once held the number two spot worldwide for industrial hemp production), than in countries which are more willing to commit.

In the UK, the story looks rather familiar. Despite the nearly four-decade long prohibition on medical cannabis being overturned by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year, access to the drug is still hampered by heavy-handed restrictions and high costs. Patients will have to wade through a sea of bureaucracy and extortionate bills to have access to the drug legally, rendering any benefits this would have over continued use of the black market very hazy.

Growers and entrepreneurs, too, are deterred by legal ambiguity. With the British government reluctant to go any further than this somewhat-legal medicinal cannabis, the country is at risk of following Italy’s footsteps and missing out on what seems poised to be one of the most promising markets of our time.

There is a silver lining though. While patients and consumers may have their wellbeing overlooked by the government in Westminster, an unlikely source shows far more promise when it comes to protecting their welfare. Across the UK, members of the police are beginning to relax their approaches to cannabis offences.

Rather than prosecuting those caught with small amounts of the drug, many police officers are instead opting for warning and recommendations for how to quit. This has prompted accusations that the police are pushing for de facto decriminalisation outside of the realm of legislators.

In practice, however, such action might be the saving grace for British cannabis consumers. A more relaxed approach from police allows for a far safer environment, with police attention shifted to the darker, truly criminal side of the market, and away from nonviolent consumers.

Moreover, the controversy surrounding this ‘blind-eye’ approach could be just the thing needed to get the ball rolling on higher-up decriminalisation. Rather than shell out thousands for legal medicinal cannabis, or to risk buying on the black market, some are now pushing the cause of growing the plant at home for treatment of certain ailments.

While the British cannabis scene is still hampered by a stubborn government, changing attitudes from law enforcement could revitalise the debate on harm-reduction and smart drugs policy, all the while making life easier for consumers. It may be early days, but there’s hope that legislators will see sense in the police’s decision.

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