fbpx

Cannabis Legalization

Cannabis Industry Stakeholders, Policymakers Share Perspectives on States Reform Act

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace unveiled the legislation Nov. 15 to allow state governments to regulate cannabis products through the health-and-safety oversights of their choosing.


During a Nov. 15 press conference, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican from South Carolina who took office at the beginning of the year, unveiled the States Reform Act (SRA), legislation that would allow state governments to regulate cannabis products through the health-and-safety oversights of their choosing.

The 131-page draft bill proposes a 3% federal cannabis excise tax, with a 10-year moratorium on excise tax increases to maintain a competitive marketplace.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which operates under the U.S. Department of the Treasury, would federally regulate the interstate commerce of cannabis products, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would oversee medical cannabis.

The legislation also includes expungement provisions, but cartel members, agents of cartel gangs or those convicted of driving under the influence would be excluded from seeking expungement.

The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s effort to provide Americans with a smart, safe and consumer-friendly path to legal cannabis. A focus on establishing legal and safe markets will benefit all of society by finally eliminating the black market, restoring justice and giving the incentive for creative entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. It is past time America had smart cannabis policies.” – Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director, Consumer Choice Center

Read the full text here

Cannabis Freedom Alliance Endorses Rep. Mace’s States Reform Act

Today, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance (CFA) announced that it has endorsed the States Reform Act. The Act strongly aligns with CFA’s vision of ending prohibition in a manner consistent with helping all Americans achieve their full potential and limiting the number of barriers that inhibit innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market. The States Reform Act is the truly principled vehicle for conservatives, libertarian, and all who value limited government to support cannabis reform. 

CFA was proud to work with Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R-SC)’s team in crafting this legislation and to lend it our future support. The Act creates a bill that keeps Americans and their children safe while ending the federal preemption of and interference with state cannabis laws. The States Reform Act:

  • Federally decriminalizes cannabis and fully defers to state powers over prohibition and commercial regulation
  • Regulates cannabis products like alcohol products
  • Institutes a 3% federal excise tax on those products to fund law enforcement and small business programs.
  • Ensures the continued existence of state medical cannabis programs and patient access while allowing for new medical research and products to be developed
  • Protects our veterans by ensuring they will not be discriminated against in federal hiring for cannabis use or lose their VA healthcare for following their doctor’s advice to use medical cannabis
  • Protects children and young adults under 21 from cannabis products and advertising nationwide

Read the full text here

Consumer Choice Center Praises Rep. Nancy Mace’s Smart Cannabis Legalization Bill

1acdbea962554e6ea67b12e24ed7f06e.png

Consumer Choice Center Praises Rep. Nancy Mace’s Smart Cannabis Legalization Bill

Washington, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) unveiled the first comprehensive federal cannabis decriminalization and legalization bill by a Republican member of Congress.

The Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group that advocates for smart cannabis policies, praises Rep. Mace’s bill as a significant first step in ending the war on cannabis and providing a consumer-friendly model for sales and distribution to spur entrepreneurship. They join the coalition of the Cannabis Freedom Alliance in endorsing the bill.

“The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s effort to provide Americans with a smart, safe, and consumer-friendly path to legal cannabis,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center. “A focus on establishing legal and safe markets will benefit all of society by finally eliminating the black market, restoring justice, and giving the incentive for creative entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace. It is past time America had smart cannabis policies.”

The bill text will be introduced by the end of the day on Monday.

“For too long, lives and resources have been wasted in the failed War on Drugs. By calling on federal lawmakers to legalize recreational cannabis, Rep. Mace is taking the next practical step to save lives and improve our communities,” said David Clement, North American Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center.

“The benefits of legalization have already paid out massive dividends to the people in Colorado, California, Michigan, Oregon, and more, via tax revenues and also by reversing the harsh criminalization that has had a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority communities. Now is the opportunity to make it national,” said Clement.

“We must ensure that the federal government embraces smart cannabis policy, one that encourages competition, entrepreneurship, avoids red tape and eradicates the black market to spur a new revolution in entrepreneurship and opportunity.

“The Consumer Choice Center applauds Rep. Mace’s efforts, and hopes legislators line up behind this proposal,” said Clement.

Read more about the Consumer Choice Center’s Smart Cannabis Policy Recommendations

CONTACT:

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Consumer Choice Center

yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, Lima, Brasilia, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more atconsumerchoicecenter.org.

Opinion: Missouri should learn from Canada’s cannabis experience

To say that Missouri’s medical cannabis rollout has been rocky is an understatement. First, enormous public controversy emerged when 85 percent of applicants for marijuana business licenses were denied. Second, with limitations on the number of producers and retailers, consumers have faced high prices, inconsistent quality, and other difficulties in accessing legalproducts. However, we can learn some significant lessons from places that have already legalized — most notably our neighbor to the north, Canada.  

Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that medical cannabis could be used for HIV/AIDS and a variety of other illnesses. That moment ultimately set the table for the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis 17 years later. A lot can be learned from the Canadian experience, especially the numerous mistakes that have been made since 2018.

Unfortunately, it looks like the state of Missouri is replicating many of those errors. The first and most glaring mistake is the application of pharmaceutical-grade production regulations for medical cannabis. This is problematic for a few reasons.

While medical cannabis is medicine, there is no need for it to be regulated in a similar fashion as narcotics. Any risk-based assessment would clearly demonstrate that there just isn’t a need for this level of scrutiny from regulators, especially given that alcohol is not regulated in this manner. 

Beyond being heavy-handed, these pharma-grade restrictions act as a significant barrier to entry and run the risk of preventing the legal medical market from being able to scale up if recreational cannabis is legalized, either by state ballot initiative in 2022, or if the federal government takes a leadership role on this issue. 

In fact, this is exactly the mistake that Canada made when it passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. Prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis, federally regulated licensed medical producers were forced to comply with pharma-grade production regulations, which artificially inflated operating costs and inflated prices for patients. When recreational cannabis became legalized, those licensed producers struggled immensely to scale up their operations to meet the new spike in demand, which caused shortages, exorbitant prices, and poor product availability. 

This is the situation Missouri will be in if it continues down its current path in regards to rigid production restrictions. By looking north, legislators in the Show Me State could see that those rules and regulations created a laundry list of negative externalities, all of which were easily avoidable with a more appropriate regulatory framework. 

Another significant issue with Missouri’s current setup for medical cannabis is the existence of license caps for producers, processors, and retailers. Beyond being subject to human error, a cap-based system is susceptible to gross conflicts of interest and cronyism. Over 800 lawsuits have been filed over license denials, and last week a $28 million judgment was handed down against Wise Health Solutions, the company tasked with scoring these applications. This judgment came after an arbitrator described Wise Health Solutions as negligently performing its role. Numerous other American states have seen similar controversy over license caps, including Missouri’s neighbor, Illinois.

The Canadian example showed clearly that license caps are the wrong approach. There is no federal cap on producer licenses in Canada, and several provinceshave uncapped their retail license approval process. Ontario’s conservative government decided almost immediately after forming a government that the retail market for cannabis would be uncapped, with the attorney general stating: “Not having a cap on cannabis retail outlets will mean that the cannabis market will be able to accurately respond to market pressures and demand for the product. This is a huge step in regards to combating the illegal market.” These pro-market initiatives are in large part why the legal market in Canada outsold the illegal market in 2020. 

At the end of the day, over-regulation makes it harder for patients to access their medicine and incentivizes buying from the black market, which wastes valuable police resources. Even worse, heavy-handed regulations make it harder for ordinary folks to capitalize on the economic growth that comes from either medical cannabis or recreational cannabis, and this is especially true for minority populations who have been disproportionately impacted by the failed war on drugs.  

Luckily for Missourians, there is a chance to open the medical cannabis market and lay the groundwork for a fully functional recreational market. Republican Rep. Shamed Dogan had introduced a House Joint Resolution that would entirely avoid the consequences of over-regulation. This is something that both free-market Republicans and social justice Democrats should endorse.

Originally published here

Embrace the Smart Legalisation of Cannabis

Marijuana or cannabis is considered to be a sacred plant in Hindu mythology. Its stress-relieving properties were mentioned in the Atharvaveda (4th Veda), one of the four ancient scriptures. It is considered to be one of ‘five sacred plants’ that are generally utilised to attain trance and carry out rituals and other religious activities dating back to 2000-1400 B.C. 

Cannabis holds a significant value in Hindu culture and it is often associated with the lord Shiva (god of destruction). Bhang is generally offered to Lord Shiva and is consumed ritually by his disciples and devotees (yogis and naga sadhus) who smoke its leaves and resin from a special instrument known as Chillum. 

The consumption of marijuana has spiritual significance during the festival of Maha Shivratri and Holi. The consumption of marijuana leaves (Bhang) is considered appropriate during these festivals as it is believed that bhang purifies the elixir of life produced by Shiva from his body which purifies the soul. 

Cannabis is classified as a physio pharmaceutical drug sourced from cannabis plants and primarily used as medicine or for recreational purposes. The versatility of this drug allows it to be consumed in various ways such as being grounded and mixed in cigarettes or in a bong.

A much more concentrated form popular among youth is known as hashish. A vaporizer machine distils the cannabis into a storage unit and produces a vapour that can be inhaled by the user which is common practice in western culture

The reason for cannabis being severely regulated or outright banned is due to the core psychoactive element known as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This component is responsible for the euphoric sensation experienced when the drug is inhaled.

STEP TOWARDS ITS REGULATION 

The British regime took the initial steps to regulate cannabis in India. The laws were enacted by the British levying taxes on cannabis and its derivative forms such as charas and Bhang. These taxes were levied in the pretext of “good health and sanity” for the natives but the British refrained from criminalizing its usage.

In 1961 the convention of UNCND categorised cannabis and its derivatives as schedule IV, driving criminalisation on a global scale. After the initial opposition, the Indian government led by then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, introduced the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in 1985 that served as the final nail in the coffin for the marijuana trade in India. However, the Act kept the usage of seeds and leaves out of its purview due to its spiritual significance, hence successfully avoided the stigma of being labelled as bootlegged.

The act permitted the cultivation of cannabis strictly for industrial purposes such as hemp production or horticulture. Recently, cannabis has been acknowledged as a prominent source of high-value oil, fibre and biomass according to the National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

A STEP FORWARD 

The recent decision of U.N to reschedule marijuana has been backed by a majority of member states, including India. The decriminalisation drive has been initiated by various NGOs across the nation, in the form of movements led by youth and filing petitions to challenge the stringent drug laws in India. Non-profit organisations such as The Great Legalization Movement India aim to decriminalise the use of cannabis in India for commercial and medical purposes.

The group under its decriminalisation drive challenged the NDPS Act in 2019. The writ petition was filed by them in the high court of Delhi seeking legalisation of cannabis under the act. The Act was challenged on the grounds of violating several provisions of the Constitution of India such as Article 21 providing the right to life and personal liberty. This is the biggest action taken against the criminalisation of cannabis on Indian soil.

This paradigm shift has caused several activists and public leaders to begin voicing their support towards cannabis legalisation. In 2018, Uttarakhand allowed hemp cultivation for commercial purpose and also granted a license to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) to grow hemp over 1000 hectares of land, thus becoming the first state to take a radical step towards decriminalisation.  Manipur is known for its high-quality cannabis, and recently the state government has acknowledged its brimming potential as the main driver of the state economy. The state government is devising plans for legalising cannabis for clinical purpose by involving new emerging start-ups in its legalisation plan.

As the country began embracing the medical and therapeutic properties of cannabis, numerous start-ups emerged focusing on the therapeutic aspect of marijuana such as Odisha based HempCann Solutions which opened India’s first Cannabis Clinic in Bangalore known as Vedi Herbal. The clinic prescribes tablets and oils infused with marijuana in order to treat various health ailments such as stress, anxiety and sex-related problems. The license has been issued to the clinic to commence its operation in all parts of the country, a massive step forwards toward the legalisation of cannabis in the country.

The future of cannabis in India remains uncertain, but these initiatives give a ray of hope to the youth working towards the common goal of decriminalising cannabis in new and progressive India.

Originally published here.

Miljard gram cannabis opgeslagen zonder verkocht te worden

BNN Bloomberg kondigde deze week aan dat een miljard gram legale pot in Canada onverkocht in magazijnen in het hele land ligt te verstoffen. De vraag rijst waarom deze cannabis niet wordt gebruikt om cbd-olie van te maken.

Dat is heel veel wiet. Een voorraad die genoeg zou moeten zijn om drie jaar vooruit te kunnen. Door de steeds hogere eisen die de consument stelt aan zijn cannabisproduct ligt veel cannabis uit het middensegment nu te verstoffen in magazijnen. “Je kunt echter geen THC-producten uit het middensegment voor een cent weggeven,” vertelde Peter Machalek, vice-president verkoop en partnerschappen bij TREC Brand, aan Bloomberg. “De markt is veel geavanceerder geworden en volgt wat de consumenten eisen.”

CBD-olie van onverkochte cannabis

Het roept de vraag op waarom een deel van die miljard gram niet is gebruikt om CBD-olie van te maken. De niet-bedwelmende stof die voor veel mensen wordt gebruikt als natuurlijk medicijn tegen hoofdpijn, rugklachten, slechte knieën, artritis, angststoornissen en tal van andere klachten, aandoeningen en bijbehorende pijnen. Het is een bonafide elixer voor veroudering en pijn.

Het probleem is echter dat CBD-olie, ondanks dat ze geen high geeft, nog steeds onder de Cannabiswet valt en daarom net zo streng gereguleerd is als THC. Een lastige markt die zelfs de meest bescheiden vormen van reclame en branding verhindert. David Clement, de Noord-Amerikaanse zakenmanager voor het Consumer Choice Center, gelooft dat de overvloed aan wietproducten gedeeltelijk kan worden tegengegaan door CBD-olie uit de Cannabis Act te verwijderen. Hierdoor kunnen bepaalde extracten en dranken worden verkocht bij reguliere retailers en in supermarkten.

“Vanuit het oogpunt van consumentenbescherming en volksgezondheid is er geen redelijke rechtvaardiging om CBD-producten zo strikt te reguleren als THC”, zegt Clement. “Naar onze mening is de Cannabiswet te restrictief. Wanneer CBD-producten uit de wetgeving worden verwijderd, zouden CBD-producten op grotere schaal beschikbaar komen, wat het probleem van het overaanbod zou kunnen verlichten.

Overschot aan cannabisproducten

“Bovendien moet de federale overheid de marketing-, merk- en verpakkingsbeperkingen die momenteel gelden voor legale producenten versoepelen”, zegt Clement. Volgens het Bloomberg-rapport heeft Health Canada eindelijk branchegegevens voor oktober vrijgegeven, waaruit blijkt dat 1,1 miljoen kilo onverkochte cannabis door producenten in het hele land is opgeslagen.

Met Canada’s maandelijkse consumptie van ongeveer 30.000 kilo, betekent dit dat er een voorraad van drie jaar inactief is. Er lijkt echter licht aan het einde van de tunnel om dit probleem kan verlichten. Health Canada zal waarschijnlijk binnenkort beslissen of CBD-olie ver vrij verkrijgbare gezondheids- en welzijnsproducten mag voorkomen. Later dit jaar wordt een formeel besluit verwacht. Het is een wildcard die een game-changer zou kunnen zijn voor de markt, maar is nu nog steeds een longshot.

Originally published here.

Set CBD oil free from the restrictive Cannabis Act

Despite providing no high, it’s as strictly regulated as THC

Perhaps due to the thriving marijuana black market — cheaper prices, higher THC content, a reliable dealer? — BNN Bloomberg announced this week a billion grams of legal pot is sitting unsold in vaults across the country.

That’s a lot of weed, supposedly a three-year supply for the struggling legal market that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assumed would flourish to extraordinary heights and put the illegal marketeers out of business.

Alas, the Trudeau Liberals’ legalization of recreational marijuana has not lived up to those expectations.

“You can’t give away mid-range THC product for a buck now,” Peter Machalek, vice-president of sales and partnerships at TREC Brand, told Bloomberg. “The market has become much more sophisticated, following what the consumers are demanding.”

It begs the question then why those billion grams have not been used to make the non-intoxicating CBD oil, seen by millions as relief from bad headaches, bad backs, bad knees, the creaks of the aging process, and a long list of other bodily afflictions and accompanying pains.

Those that use it swear by it once they have found the sweet spot when it comes to the amount needed to work its magic.

It’s a bonafide elixir for the aging and the pain-stricken.

The problem, however, is that CBD oil, despite providing no high, still falls under the Cannabis Act and is therefore as strictly regulated as THC.

It also exists in a challenging market that prevents even the most modest forms of advertising and branding.

David Clement is North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center, and he believes today’s pot glut can be partially alleviated by removing CBD oil from the Cannabis Act, thereby allowing for products like extracts and beverages to be sold at retailers more commonplace for Canadian consumers such as health food outlets and grocery stores.

“From a consumer protection standpoint, there is no reasonable justification to regulate CBD products as strictly as we regulate THC,” says Clement. “In our view, the Cannabis Act is overly restrictive, and removing CBD products from the legislation would mean that CBD products would become more widely available, which could help ease the issue of oversupply,

“Additionally, the federal government should ease up on the marketing, branding and packaging restrictions that currently apply for legal producers,” says Clement.

“From the outset, we thought that these regulations were overly paternalistic, and handcuffed the legal industry from effectively communicating and advertising to adult consumers.”

According to the Bloomberg report, Health Canada finally released industry-wide data for October showing that 1.1 million kilos of unsold cannabis has been stockpiled by producers nationwide.

With Canada’s monthly consumption rate of pot pegged at approximately 30,000 kilos, it means a three-year supply is sitting idle.

It’s an overload that analysts tell Bloomberg continues to “weigh heavily on the industry, possibly spelling further write-downs and facility closures in the months to come.”

Five will get you 10 that this never crossed the mind of the Liberals when they were conjuring the wording for legalization legislation that very quickly started circling the bowl.

The illegal market could not be busier or happier.

But some breathing room might be on its way with Health Canada expected to rule soon on whether to allow CBD oil to be used in over-the-counter health and wellness products.

A formal decision is expected later this year.

It’s a wild card which could be a game-changer if the Trudeau Liberals have learned anything from their screwups at every turn on the cannabis legalization file.

But it’s still a longshot.

Originally published here.

$143 Million Cannabis Bust Confirms Diversion From Medical Program To Illegal Marke

On October 22nd, Ontario Provincial Police announced that they have seized $143 million worth of illegal cannabis in the last 4 months. In addition to that, police confirmed that the seized cannabis was a result of criminal networks exploiting Health Canada’s medical cannabis personal and designate production regime.

David Clement, Toronto based North American affairs manager for the Consumer Choice Center responds: “The OPP’s report confirms was we speculated in April, which is that organized crime has weaseled its way into the permit process,” said Clement.

“In April, via Access to Information Requests, we were able to show that the personal and designate program produces 2.5 – 4.5 times more cannabis than the legal market. Unfortunately that excess cannabis is being diverted into the illegal market. Health Canada should review the permit process to ensure that criminal networks aren’t using it to fuel their nefarious activities.

“That said, the government shouldn’t target legitimate permit holders. Doing so would violate their constitutional rights, and would be exceptionally cruel given how marginalized this group has historically been. Rather than trying to arrest their way out of the problem, the government should focus on transitioning permit holder growers into the legal market. Making it easier for for excess cannabis to end up in the legal market, coupled with a Health Canada review for criminal activity, would go a long way in stamping out the black market,” said Clement.

Originally published here.

David Clement and Yael Ossowski: Pa. can and should legalize cannabis, but do it right

If the General Assembly takes up Gov. Tom Wolf’s call, Pennsylvania could become the 12th state to legalize recreational cannabis. They should absolutely follow through. But it won’t end there.Tom Wolf wearing a suit and tie© Provided by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Legalizing cannabis is a no-brainer. Any negatives from legalization pale in comparison with the costs of prohibition. The failed war on drugs has criminalized otherwise peaceful citizens, torn minority communities apart and locked up far too many of our friends, family and neighbors. We know the cost.

But legalization in itself isn’t virtuous. State legislators must ensure that legislation does not end up causing even more problems. We need only look at other states, as well as our friendly neighbor to the north, to understand why smart cannabis legalization is necessary.

To begin, it has been suggested that Pennsylvania use its model of state retail of alcohol — namely through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board — as a template for selling cannabis products. Though Harrisburg legislators are tempted, this would be an outright disaster.

The state should lean on the private sector and avoid treating cannabis like alcohol. It is well known that Pennsylvania’s alcohol retail market is one of the most archaic and anti-consumer markets in the country, one that artificially raises prices, causes massive inconvenience and pushes thousands of Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol out-of-state. We especially saw this during the pandemic. That’s hardly an example to emulate.

In states where it is legal, cannabis retail is offered by licensed private businesses rather than state monopolies. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, now has only private retail storefronts and is proceeding to have a retail market where licenses are uncapped. That means there can be better competition, a more responsive market and better customer service than in a state store.

A licensed private retail market would be wise for Pennsylvanians, as it would allow the market to determine the number of stores available to consumers, rather than a bureaucracy in Harrisburg.

The legal market would be dynamic enough to respond to consumer demand, an important factor in prying consumers away from the illegal market. Stopping the black market would help raise the tax revenue Mr. Wolf intends to offer to minority communities and small businesses in need of assistance post-COVID-19.

Added to that, Pennsylvania should ensure that taxation and regulation of cannabis products are reasonable and fair.

Though Colorado and Washington have raised an impressive amount of revenue since legalization, California — with higher-than-average taxation, counties that don’t allow legal shops, and a myriad of red tape governing who can grow and sell — has one of the largest cannabis black markets in the country. Nearly 80% of cannabis consumed in the state remains in the illegal market, depriving the state treasury of much-needed revenue, but also locking out entrepreneurs who could otherwise operate successful dispensaries and contribute to their communities.

Another issue is which products will be legal to sell and use.

Canada, the largest industrialized country to legalize cannabis, mandated that only dried cannabis and oils be made legal on day one. That meant harm-reducing alternatives, such as beverages or edibles, were not available for sale until the next year. Giving the green light on product variety would benefit consumers and the retailers who are permitted to sell legal products, and would help the legal market compete against illegal alternatives.

If the General Assembly acts, there will be a lot of temptation to treat cannabis as nothing more than a cash crop for government coffers. But if legislators want to help benefit the minority communities who have been hurt by prohibition, future consumers and prospects for raising enough revenue to ease the pain caused by the pandemic, they would be wise to enact a smart cannabis policy.

David Clement and Yael Ossowski are North American affairs manager and deputy director, respectively, at the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.


Originally published here.

David Clement and Yael Ossowski: Pa. can and should legalize cannabis, but do it right

State should ensure that taxation and regulation of products are reasonable and fair.

If the General Assembly takes up Gov. Tom Wolf’s call, Pennsylvania could become the 12th state to legalize recreational cannabis. They should absolutely follow through. But it won’t end there.

Legalizing cannabis is a no-brainer. Any negatives from legalization pale in comparison with the costs of prohibition. The failed war on drugs has criminalized otherwise peaceful citizens, torn minority communities apart and locked up far too many of our friends, family and neighbors. We know the cost.

But legalization in itself isn’t virtuous. State legislators must ensure that legislation does not end up causing even more problems. We need only look at other states, as well as our friendly neighbor to the north, to understand why smart cannabis legalization is necessary.

To begin, it has been suggested that Pennsylvania use its model of state retail of alcohol — namely through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board — as a template for selling cannabis products. Though Harrisburg legislators are tempted, this would be an outright disaster.

The state should lean on the private sector and avoid treating cannabis like alcohol. It is well known that Pennsylvania’s alcohol retail market is one of the most archaic and anti-consumer markets in the country, one that artificially raises prices, causes massive inconvenience and pushes thousands of Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol out-of-state. We especially saw this during the pandemic. That’s hardly an example to emulate.

In states where it is legal, cannabis retail is offered by licensed private businesses rather than state monopolies. Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, now has only private retail storefronts and is proceeding to have a retail market where licenses are uncapped. That means there can be better competition, a more responsive market and better customer service than in a state store.

A licensed private retail market would be wise for Pennsylvanians, as it would allow the market to determine the number of stores available to consumers, rather than a bureaucracy in Harrisburg.

The legal market would be dynamic enough to respond to consumer demand, an important factor in prying consumers away from the illegal market. Stopping the black market would help raise the tax revenue Mr. Wolf intends to offer to minority communities and small businesses in need of assistance post-COVID-19.

Added to that, Pennsylvania should ensure that taxation and regulation of cannabis products are reasonable and fair.

Though Colorado and Washington have raised an impressive amount of revenue since legalization, California — with higher-than-average taxation, counties that don’t allow legal shops, and a myriad of red tape governing who can grow and sell — has one of the largest cannabis black markets in the country. Nearly 80% of cannabis consumed in the state remains in the illegal market, depriving the state treasury of much-needed revenue, but also locking out entrepreneurs who could otherwise operate successful dispensaries and contribute to their communities.

Another issue is which products will be legal to sell and use.

Canada, the largest industrialized country to legalize cannabis, mandated that only dried cannabis and oils be made legal on day one. That meant harm-reducing alternatives, such as beverages or edibles, were not available for sale until the next year. Giving the green light on product variety would benefit consumers and the retailers who are permitted to sell legal products, and would help the legal market compete against illegal alternatives.

If the General Assembly acts, there will be a lot of temptation to treat cannabis as nothing more than a cash crop for government coffers. But if legislators want to help benefit the minority communities who have been hurt by prohibition, future consumers and prospects for raising enough revenue to ease the pain caused by the pandemic, they would be wise to enact a smart cannabis policy.

David Clement and Yael Ossowski are North American affairs manager and deputy director, respectively, at the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

Originally published here.

Scroll to top