cannabis in california

Pros and Cons of California’s Legalization

California legalized cannabis in one of the best ways possible. A ballot initiative, a quick turn-around, with the ability for local governments to ban anything they don’t like within their borders.

It’s this last part that rustles some jimmies. Consider it a helpful guide to distinguishing between the different political temperaments in the cannabis movement.

Does 85% of California have a right to ban cannabis within their local city and county borders? It would seem now that cannabis is legal state-wide, the battle should shift locally, to changing the minds of local governments.

The other method is to go back to the state legislature and effectively force all communities within the state to accommodate the legal cannabis industry.

I believe there is a third option. One that can incorporate the first method of changing the hearts and minds of people on the local level, but also incorporates changing things at the state legislature, but without forcing cannabis on everyone.

But it means recognizing that state licensing is inappropriate and unnecessary. State licensing is precisely why 85% of California has banned cannabis.

One can imagine if BC took a similar route. No doubt, there are many communities in California like Nelson, BC. Places where the underground cannabis economy is pivotal to the interlocking structure of the local economy, but chastised and micturated upon by the local politicians. 

Legalization isn’t about welcoming cannabis into the fold of our post-modernist, materialistic, crony-capitalist mercantilist system. 

Under prohibition, the cannabis industry formed according to market norms created in the absence of state rules and regulations.

This is what statists fear the most — the realization that, in the absence of the state rules and regulations, commerce still works. 

Commerce regulates commerce. Quality assurance needn’t be a service provided by unaccountable bureaucrats wasting away taxpayer money.

Consumers are safer without government licensing powers. It requires they make risk assessments based on their own judgments.

And, as already the case, private, non-political solutions are discovered when government recedes. 

So where does this leave California? 

A majority of voters supported Prop 64, but the majority of the state’s cities and counties have yet to issue (or refuse to issue) licenses.

Worse, let’s say a cannabis entrepreneur does get the approval of the local government, he or she must then go get approval from the State of California.

Many cannabis activists are calling for option number #2, change things at the state level. They want this lengthily and expensive application process streamlined.

I see where they’re coming from. A lot of large cannabis players, connected to the booze and pharmaceutical industry, are lobbying local Cali governments for these licenses.

Meanwhile, the small mom-and-pops don’t have this kind of money or leverage. So, at the end of the day, the status quo favours the big guys at the expense of the small guys. 

Hence, especially in Cali, cannabis activists are looking to Big Brother to correct the shortcomings of Prop 64.

The best solution is to get rid of government licenses altogether. When the government takes your freedom and then sells it back to you as a “license,” then you really need to question what you mean by “a free society.”

What part of quality assurance, security, or any other of the functions of government cannot be handled by free markets? In 2018, what evidence is there to support the efficiency and effectiveness of government bureaucracy vis-a-vis private exchange?

The USA has never relied on politicians attempting to solve any and every perceived or real conflict that arises.

Traditionally, the idea that entrepreneurs had to register with the government for a business license was considered downright tyrannical (and unnecessary).

If people are living in cities, where they are surrounded by strangers all the time, then they’ve already demonstrated that peace is a prerequisite.

There are commercial means of regulating human activity, and they don’t involve constraining people’s actions with numerous laws and regulations established by a political authority.

If state force maintained order, increased regulation (and not just for cannabis people, but for everyone) coupled with a larger police presence would turn slums, ghettos and city jungles into prosperous metropolises.

But that’s not how freedom and prosperity works.

So what is this third option the California cannabis community has? The same option every other business owner and indebted taxpayer has: the local vote, that is, electing anti-democratic, pro-private property politicians to the local government. 

They’d transfer ownership of government assets in their jurisdiction to local companies. These companies would be owned by taxpayers, with ownership of shares proportional to the burden the democratic state has placed upon each individual to that point.

Allowing private neighbourhood associations to regulate commerce within their borders, instead of delegating that power to local politicians, is a goal worth striving for. While not completely remedying people’s hearts and minds on cannabis taboos, it is a better instrument for regulation than the blunt force of the state.