How to Regulate Cannabis

We’ve been told that legalization comes with regulation, but Canadians don’t need another bloated regulatory body overseeing the cannabis industry.

Why do we need regulation in the first place, because individuals and businesses sometimes impose harm or “externalities” costs on others?

I suppose cannabis farms create pollution, whether it’s airborne or something physical that must be discarded.

Internalizing externalities means imposing “social cost” of pollution on the polluter, and not on society as a whole.

If regulation is needed to ensure entrepreneurs incorporate the social costs of their actions into their profit-and-loss accounting, then what exactly would a political monopoly do to enforce this? Pass legislation? When has that ever worked?

More often that not, state rules and bureaucracy impose infringements on individual liberty while providing an opportunity for big business to capture the regulatory process.

But businesses imposing “social costs” from unregulated activity is a reality, and so my common law regulatory proposal may be a pie-in-the-sky fantasy until people learn that governments are by definition corrupt and inefficient.

I don’t understand why this isn’t more commonly accepted.

We already have the laws in place to regulate cannabis effectively, there is no need for a new federal bureaucracy or provinces setting up control boards and issuing licenses.

That’s not regulation, that’s a cash-grab by governments with a spending problem.

Having governments create legislation to regulate big business will result in, as I already alluded to, an opportunity for those businesses to write the rules and put themselves at a competitive advantage — just Google “tort reform.”

Businesses complain they are over-regulated by the common law of tort and demand governments protect them from this non-political method of regulation, or of internalizing negative externalities.

Then we’re told this form of political regulation is the only form of regulation.

But human action is always subject to regulation.

Other people regulate my behaviour in the sense that I can’t go running up the street naked yelling “the cake is a lie!”

No central political authority is needed to prevent that. Yet, if this yelling, naked street-runner became an election issue, no doubt politicians would be the first to tell us that only they can successfully combat this unregulated behaviour.

In the western legal system, tort law was the portion of the law that evolved to protect individuals’ persons and property from the audacious actions of others, that is, to internalize externalities.

Only willful ignorance denies this form of non-political regulation.

An objection could be made that the common law is retroactive and lawsuits will only arise after the harm is done, after oil is spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, for example.

But how does this follow? Again, the rules of tort law prohibit individuals from intentionally or inadvertently harming others and to act with reasonable care.

Cannabis patients protected by the Allard injunction have done something very similar to this.

Injunctions evolved to handle these kind of cases where one party’s conduct poses a high risk of irreparable harm onto others.

It’s also worth noting that in order to obtain an injunction (which restricts somebody else’s freedom), one must establish a high likelihood of irreparable harm.

In contrast to government legislation that curtails individual liberty whenever the political class sees fit.

Tort law isn’t perfect, but it’s enough to regulate cannabis in a way that allows for maximum individual liberty while internalizing the negative externalities that come with the production of any good or service.

A free society isn’t preemptively burden with rules and regulations, especially for a plant that has never harmed or killed anyone except the drug war victims the government created.