Consumer group: It’s high time North Carolina approves legal marijuana

It’s high time North Carolina approves legal marijuana

Raleigh, NC – As lawmakers meet in Raleigh this week to negotiate a possible avenue to legalizing medical marijuana, the Consumer Choice Center calls on all parties and policymakers to finally end marijuana prohibition in North Carolina.

Charlotte-area native Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), said efforts by State Rep. Kelly Alexander and others to reform North Carolina’s marijuana laws are precisely what state lawmakers should be focused on in the next legislative session.

“North Carolina residents believe now is the time to pursue safe and legal regulation of marijuana, whether medical or recreational. The positive examples offered by dozens of states across the country, not to mention our neighbors to the north in Canada, lend credence to the idea that this can be done in the interests of both consumers and citizens in a responsible way,” said Ossowski.

“Across the state, there exists a popular sentiment that marijuana is no longer a drug deemed worthy of criminal punishment and police enforcement, and should instead be brought to the legitimate market where appropriate state and local regulation can flush out the black market.

“There is already a booming hemp and CBD market in North Carolina, showcasing how entrepreneurial innovation, adequate regulation, and market forces can do a great job in transitioning us away from costly marijuana prohibition,” said Ossowski.

“It’s far past time to end the war on drugs that has proven costly to North Carolina’s legal and court systems, not to mention the thousands of innocent adults who face harsh sentences and penalties for non-violent marijuana offenses.”

CONTACT:
Yaël Ossowski
Deputy Director
Consumer Choice Center
[email protected]

***CCC Deputy Director Yaël Ossowski is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

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

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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.

U.S. Midterm Primer: What’s at stake for consumer choice?

The Consumer Choice Center doesn’t take positions on any specific political campaigns or elections, but there are at least some interesting state-level ballot proposals happening around the country that could overwhelmingly benefit consumer choice.

In the U.S. federal system, state residents are eligible to vote on certain popular initiatives and state constitutional amendments that will have a major impact on daily life for citizens and consumers.

CANNABIS

Michigan and North Dakota will both vote to legalize cannabis at the state level in separate ballot initiatives. Legalizing cannabis would be a boon to the economy and consumer choice, removing cannabis sales from the black market and allowing governments to both regulate and tax it safely and securely. That’s a huge win for consumers in those states. The same applies to medical cannabis on the ballot in Utah and Missouri. Allowing legitimate medical patients the ability to use cannabis to cure their ailments legally will help potentially thousands of consumers.

GROCERY TAXES

In Washington State and Oregon, there are separate ballot proposals that would prohibit local jurisdictions from imposing additional taxes on grocery items. That would favor all consumers, and help ensure that hard-working American families won’t be forced to pay higher prices for what they already consume, or be forced to shop across city and county lines in order to find the most affordable food. Because they’re regressive, grocery taxes end up hurting lower income houses the most. By capping local jurisdictions’ abilities to raise taxes on groceries across the board, the proposal would ensure Washington and Oregon consumers won’t be subject to discriminatory tax hikes at the local level.

If Seattle is any indication, which passed a city-wide soda tax last year, consumers would be cautious. The soda tax was intended to lower consumption of sugary beverages, but considering the city now estimates it’ll collect $6 million more in taxes than they anticipated, more people are actually buying sodas than before or the numbers are wrong. Data we have from Cook County, Philadelphia, and Mexico consistently shows that higher soda taxes push people to seek alternatives with even more sugar or to shop across state lines to get their sugary drinks. Soda tax measures are well-intentioned, but end up hurting the poor.

ENERGY AND VAPING

Similarly, California’s Prop 6 would require voter approval for all future vehicle tax and fuel fees, as well as cancel the 2017 fuel taxes enacted by the state legislature. Such a proposal ensures consumers have a voice on the fees tacked on for those who drive cars and rely on transportation.

A ballot proposal in Florida seeks to ban both offshore drilling and vaping indoors in the same proposition. The fact that these questions are coupled together is unfair to Florida’s citizens and consumers. Vaping is proven to be less harmful than smoking and shouldn’t be treated the same as tobacco.

NET NEUTRALITY AND INTERNET REGULATIONS

Not up for a vote but still very important issue are a number of states considering their own net neutrality Internat regulations. As we saw in California, state legislatures and executives are considering passing their own rules for Internet regulation. Allowing each and every state to impose their own Internet rules would burden consumers and harm innovation.

More than that, state-level Internet regulations will threaten the vast entrepreneurial and tech space that is growing across the country, and push companies to set up in jurisdictions that promise true Internet freedom rather than state-imposed regulation of content and delivery of Internet services.

FEDERAL ISSUES IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS

Along with state ballot proposals, the entire U.S. House will be up for election, as well as two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. Important issues on our radar include the future of fees and taxes imposed on the airline passengers, proposals to ban single-use plastics, self-driving car and truck regulations, national cannabis decriminalization, health care freedom, and many more.

Be sure to follow the Consumer Choice Center on social media, subscribe to our newsletter and join CCC as a member, and consider making a donation if you believe our work is important for lifestyle freedom, market access, and 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.

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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.

Eyesore Marijuana Packaging Isn’t Healthy For Canadians Or Competition

HUFFINGTON POST CANADA: Last Monday, Health Canada unveiled its proposed guidance on how cannabis should be regulated, marketed and sold once it is fully legalized in later this year, likely in July or August.

While the rules incorporate important and necessary standards, the restrictions on branding and logos, as well as the exhaustive warning requirements are, quite literally, an eyesore.

According to Health Canada’s guidelines, each package must contain a large red warning sign with an image of a cannabis leaf and the word THC, the main potent chemical in cannabis. Added to that, the package must come with a yellow label warning that it must not be used by children or pregnant women.

Any brand or logo must, therefore, be visibly smaller than the THC warning sign, and any use of italics or bold font to accentuate any text is prohibited. That means a brand or logo will have minimal placement on a package.

What this guideline proposes is that cannabis companies be incredibly restricted in how they’re allowed to brand and market their products. That won’t help consumers make informed choices, and may even threaten consumer safety. And it certainly won’t bring breed any creativity for entrepreneurs and marketers.

It’s safe to say cannabis will be as heavily regulated as tobacco, but much less than alcohol. Is that fair?

For one, with such limited packaging space to market their products, how can companies differentiate themselves from competing brands? What if one company uses a completely GMO-free process, or another is from a First Nations reserve? Don’t consumers deserve to know this information, and shouldn’t companies be free to let their customers know? Without this information, the biggest and most well-known brand is best situated to gain dominant market power. Limiting branding is tantamount to limiting consumer choice.

Added to that, these restrictions will hurt consumer safety. As Health Canada recognized, the plain packaging of tobacco in countries like Australia and the United Kingdom has led to the growth of contraband tobacco products on the black market. Criminal dealers are emboldened to create fake labels on products and pass it off as another brand. In Australia, which implemented plain packaging of tobacco in 2012, close to 15 per cent of all tobacco consumed in 2016 was purchased in the illicit market.

Illicit markets aren’t regulated and transactions take place outside our legal and financial system. That isn’t good for Canadians’ safety.

HEALTH CANADA

Considering these are just the federal requirements, and we have yet to see the final plans by each province, it’s safe to say cannabis will be as heavily regulated as tobacco, but much less than alcohol. Is that fair?

The question becomes, should the government treat legal cannabis users, a drug less harmful than alcohol and many opiates, like children who cannot make their own decisions?

Answering that will be key to determining whether this succeeds. Especially considering Canada is due to become the largest industrialized country to legalize cannabis. The world will be watching.

Are there alternatives?

For an informed look at alternatives, we need only cite the examples of Washington State, Oregon and Colorado — U.S. states that have already legalized cannabis and proposed some common-sense rules.

In these states, the most onerous regulations are applied to media and billboard advertising, rather than the packages themselves.

And this approach works.

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / REUTERS
Different strains of marijuana are seen for sale in California.

I ventured into various Washington State dispensaries last year and was taken aback by the number of competing brands present inside. There is a plethora of magazines and websites dedicated to comparing each strain and product, discussing the various tastes and promised effects for responsible users. Entire companies have sprung up to promote safe and enjoyable experiences for consumers. That’s what its laws allow for.

As successful cannabis companies such as Weedmaps, Leafly and Ganjapreneur prove, entrepreneurs can actually fill the space left by government when it comes to safety and information. They can provide better guidance on how much to take, where to buy it and which companies have the most ethical practices. We don’t need government branding restrictions to do that for us.

By restricting brands, we as Canadians are completely outsourcing the imagination of cannabis to an overzealous crowd of public health regulators.

Rather than our current path, we should follow the Washington-Oregon-Colorado (WOC) model. One that embraces brands and logos, information and entrepreneurship.

The fact remains: brands matter. Much like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 election, or the Canadian flag abroad, a strong brand tied to good information will ultimately make for better and happier consumers.

British design critic Stephen Bayley said it best:

“A war against branding is a war against people. Brands are, quite literally, signs of life, or, at least, popular expressions of it. They are culture, art, design, value, belief.”

If Canada wants to be an example to the world when it comes to the legalization of cannabis, we’d be wise to follow his words.

Yaël Ossowski, a Montreal-area native, is deputy director of Consumer Choice Center.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.