Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Regulation junkies

The Liberal Democrats published a report calling for the legalisation of cannabis last month. I'm afraid I wasn't impressed. I've written a critique for Volte-Face.

After successful experiments in Uruguay and parts of the USA, the relegalisation of cannabis in Britain is no longer a distant dream and the Liberal Democrats should be applauded for spelling out what a post-prohibition cannabis market could look like. It is only a shame that they have allowed their blueprint to be shaped by regulation junkies like David Nutt and Steve Rolles (of Transform) who would restrict the sale of Sherbet Fountains to pharmacists if they were given the opportunity.

... For Rolles et al., cannabis is a Bad Thing and the fewer people who smoke it the better. Drug dealers are also a Bad Thing, however, and their plan is to replace them with benign government and all-knowing regulators. To that end, they call for the creation of a ‘Cannabis Regulatory Authority’ to ‘license the production of a fixed volume of specified products’ for licensed retailers. These retailers would not be able to advertise or create any brands because ‘plain packaging should be mandatory for all retail cannabis, with standardised non-branded designs along the lines of prescription pharmaceuticals’. Resin would remain illegal, as would edible cannabis, and there would be no Amsterdam-style coffee shops.

Products would not only be labelled with ‘mandated information and warnings about key health risks’ but would be sold in ‘re-sealable childproof containers’ with ‘more detailed health information […] on printed inserts […] similar to those that accompany all prescription medicines.’ A eighth of weed in a plastic bag from a man in a pub suddenly seems glamorous.

As if that weren’t enough, retailers would not be able to set their own prices because the government would introduce ‘either direct price fixing, or maximum and minimum price controls’. In other words, in the unlikely event of a Lib Dem government, the state will decide how much cannabis can be commercially produced, where it can be sold, what its packaging will look like, what can be said about it and how much it can be sold for. This is a market in the loosest sense of the word. Indeed, it is barely a market at all. 

The scary thing is that this is how the authors of the report want to regulate tobacco and alcohol as well.

Do read the whole article.

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