Mike Harcourt is Wrong

Former BC Premier Mike Harcourt is jumping on the “safe and secure” cannabis bandwagon, basically claiming that grown adults are incapable of making their own decisions.

That’s the crux of this argument: without the heavy-hand of government bureaucracy, Canadians would be dying in the streets from contaminated goods and services.

Never mind that there hasn’t been a “safe and secure supply” of cannabis for as long as prohibition has been enforced. Yet, surprise, surprise, no one has died or gotten sick.

Government bureaucracy isn’t going to prevent contaminated goods from reaching storefronts. The licensed producers have recalled their products before, as have meat-packing plants and grocery stores.

Government regulations are restrictions on commerce that can’t be checked by economic calculation.

Absent this ineffective monopoly, competing accreditation agencies would take the place of compulsory licensing and regulation. And indeed, this very thing has happened in the cannabis trade with numerous trade associations serving dispensaries, farmers and extraction crews.

Since there are no “national standards,” cannabis consumers make more discriminating choices about who they purchase from.

The costs of doing business as a dispensary as opposed to a licensed producer is lower. Yet, instead of criticizing burdensome government regulations, many, if not all, licensed producers and applicants are condemning dispensaries.

Harcourt is one of these licensed producer applicants. The former BC Premier is chair of True Leaf Medicine International, an LP applicant who is struggling to become legitimate in a strict regime that awards 33 LPs at the expense of 416 applicants (as well as an entire culture of connoisseurs who risk fines and jail-time for their non-violent civil disobedience).

Of course, Harcourt, the former politician, doesn’t see a problem with government regulations. The fact that free markets essentially force consumers to act in accordance with their own — rather than the government’s — risk assessment is either lost on Harcourt or he sees it as a negative.

After all, if Canada is the “tribe,” if we’re all one big national family, then it is the duty of the government to save people from themselves.

Now to be fair, Harcourt is recommending Health Canada speed up the vetting process. In his letter to the task force, he wrote, “Many of those 400+ companies are ready, willing and able to provide a safe and secure supply for distribution now.”

He thinks dispensaries should be required to purchase from LPs to prevent the sale of contaminated product.

But Harcourt should check his premises. There is nothing inherent in the LP model that prevents contamination, nor is it a matter of fact that home-growers and non-LP farmers produce contaminated cannabis.

It seems that everyone is cherry-picking the results of the Globe and Mail report that tested dispensary cannabis.

Harcourt calls dispensary cannabis “dangerous,” while the chemicals he speaks of are also found in local produce.

There is very little the government can do to remedy this problem. Cannabis should be taken out of the criminal code, cannabis criminals should be pardoned, records should be expunged.

Harcourt is right that the 33 LPs should be subject to the competition of the 400+ LP applicants.

But in the same vein, the entire LP scheme should be scrapped. The cannabis industry can re-establish what it means to be an entrepreneur in a free society.

Our ancestors didn’t apply to government bureaus to go into and remain in business. That’s not how private enterprise works.

Licenses are a means of control. Government regulations empower bureaucracy at the expense of consumer sovereignty.

In a free society, to safeguard against liability suits and to attract customers, competing entrepreneurs provide increasingly better product descriptions and guarantees.

That’s what guarantees patients “a safe and secure supply.” Not the political decisions of bureaucrats who are disconnected from the market process and incapable of going bankrupt.