Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Regulating Dispensaries Plays into Harper's Hidden Agenda


Also available at Cannabis in Canada.ca

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Councillor Kerry Jang's defiance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a fabrication. If there's one thing politicians have in common it's that they like to lie. Whether it's at the municipal, provincial or federal level, the incentives in politics are always perverse. Where you and I have to create value in the market, such as opening a cannabis dispensary, politicians rely on taxes and popularity contests to perpetuate the system and their security. When Vancouver's politicians say they're implementing municipal regulation of medical cannabis dispensaries because of failed federal regulation, everyone's gut instinct should tell them the opposite. Robertson and Jang are actually doing something beneficial for Harper. They're doing something that serves the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR).

A handful of compassion clubs will be charged $83-a-month and subject to various regulatory fees and rules. The rest fall into two groups: those being closed and those who will be supplying licensed producer (LP) cannabis with an annual $30,000 license. The only way the Vancouver Police won't shut down certain dispensaries will be when they agree to supply LP product. And not only “dried marihuana” but also shatter, oils, and edibles that will have all adhered to “proper” Health Canada regulations. That is the only way the for-profit dispensaries will continue legally, when they agree to sellout to the LPs. John Conroy himself has said that the MMPR was designed for legalization.

Eventually you won't need a prescription to buy cannabis. But before that happens, the medical cannabis market will reflect the will of the government, and not that of people and patients. That is, regulated dispensaries providing the only legal supply in Canada. Growing for oneself has “inherent risks,” according to Harper, the tired argument of  “fire, mold, and organized crime.” According to the progressive left, like Justin Trudeau and Thomas Mulcair, a grown adult shouldn't be able to grow a couple plants due to the “inherent risks” posed to children.

That's why Trudeau is always harping about pot and kids. Legalization isn't about keeping the supply-chain in the hands of the BC entrepreneur. It's about “keeping it out of the hands of children” by supplying retail storefronts with crony-capitalist products. Legalization will be a more “liberal” version of the MMPR. Just like everything else in the economy, why would legal cannabis be any different? What else would “tax and regulate” entail?

Look no further then Vancouver's municipal regulations. To qualify as a dispensary or compassion club, one must provide a police information check for all the applicants and staff. Business owners must provide records to the city's chief license inspector regarding subjective matters of their business. A compassion club must offer at least two health services such as traditional Chinese medicine or psychological counseling for 200 hours or more per month, as City Councilor Jang contended, “a compassion club helps you get off marijuana.” Dispensaries and compassion clubs must have security plans, cannot be close to each other, schools, and community centres. A compassion club must be a member of the Canadian Association of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries.

Who is this latter group? The CAMCD consists of dispensary and compassion club owners, lawyers, consultants, as well as researchers. It is the kind of voluntary regulatory association I've advocated in other pieces. They provide certification for the city's dispensaries and compassion clubs they approve of. Those certifications hold value in the market. But Vancouver's regulations write this association, and its certifications, into law. The CAMCD now shares regulatory power with the city, at least in the realm of compassion clubs. This effectively means that no matter how well the CAMCD does, no matter how corrupt they may or may not become, they hold a monopoly on certified compassion clubs.

Prior to Vancouver's regulations, if the CAMCD had a bad reputation, their certification process would be meaningless. If the CAMCD failed to provide the standards demanded by patients, other associations would fill the void. But now, a bad reputation must be subject to the electorate, who often don't care or aren't well informed enough to make sensible decisions. With Vancouver's regulations, certification standards are simply what the city administration, not the patients, define as “best practice”.

By writing the CAMCD into the regulations, the city has shifted decisions from patients to a cartel that will inevitably impose rigidities and monopolization. The city has also covered its own ass regarding the “explosion” of unregulated dispensaries. While Robertson and Jang publicly shame the MMPR (and win electoral support doing it) they're using the CAMCD to serve the MMPR. The LPs are setting up clinics around the country and getting regulations written in a number of cities. Once regulations are written into law, the door for regulatory capture is open. There will be an incentive for every LP to get their product into CAMCD's compassion clubs. And thanks to Vancouver's regulations, it'll be a lot easier to circumvent the objections of patients, which is exactly what Harper wants to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment