Imagine – just hypothetically, of course – that you and a colleague were scheduled to spend an hour (as it might be, this coming Tuesday morning) with the people in charge of regulating the legal cannabis market in one of the states that voted to legalize last November.
You have to expect that most of the time will be taken up with the officials’ concerns rather than your own. You’ll be lucky if you get to make three points. What would they be?
My first-cut list is below. Comments welcome. But be mindful that adding a new point requires subtracting one of the existing points.
1. Regulatory compliance and tax revenue are fine things. But public health and public safety should be paramount. Cannabis is no ordinary commodity, but rather a sometimes-dangerous psychoactive drug: a much more complicated drug than alcohol, though in most respects a less dangerous one. Cannabis regulators will be held accountable for a much wider range of outcomes than are alcohol regulators.
[Note that this is an assertion about the actual politics of the situation. If I were King, rather than a mere Hemperor, alcohol regulators, too, would concern themselves primarily with public health and safety. But the booze industry won that battle long ago.]
2. The taxed and regulated market competes with the untaxed and unregulated illicit market. The power of the regulators depends on the market share of the enterprises they license. That suggests some restraint and cost-consciousness about regulations, and also aggressive moves to move consumers away from strictly illicit dealers into taxed and regulated stores. If you can’t raise the bridge, lower the river.
3. Some bad outcomes are inevitable. Some market participants will scheme to evade regulation. Take what action you can to prevent bad results and frustrate attempts at evasion. Warn the public that some bad results will, nevertheless, be coming.
FootnoteÂ This is meant to be a practical thread, not a polemical one. Anti-drug-war or anti-legalization rants will be ruthlessly deleted.