Criticism from Vermont

Criticism of my “Sharing the Wealth from Marijuana Legalization” article in www.VTDigger.org prompted this reply, which is waiting for approval at: http://vtdigger.org/2016/02/02/patrick-oglesby-sharing-the-wealth-from-marijuana-legalization/

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Thanks for reading. Here are some responses. More to come, maybe.

“Poor writing and fuzzy subject.”

— Ouch! You’re standing on my sore foot.

“Oligarchy,” “disenfranchised,” and “The tax ‘wealth’ will be eaten up by enforcement, studies, testing equipment, training, additional public sector school employees and their related pay and golden benefit packages, prevention measures, counseling, medical bills, unemployment compensation and the growing of the bureaucracy. It will all be good until the full force and effect hits society.”

— Yes, lack of trust in government is a bigger problem than missing out on cannabis revenue, or bad cannabis rules. Why have sensible revenue if the government is just going to waste it?

“Pols need no advice on how to tax the people, they got that down pat.”

— I love a pun. But tax policy involves at least two questions: How much, and How? Some taxes are both too high and foolish, like a tax that drives commerce to the black market. Some, regardless of the level of tax, are poorly designed, like a retail tax with a free-pot-with-pipe loophole.

“[M]arijuana may become too easy for youth and abusers to buy.  What is ‘too easy’? What does that actually mean?”

— Good point. Excess, or too much of anything, is typically in the judgment of the beholder. The RAND report warns in detail of excess, but offers no answer to the question “How much is too much?” For youth and abusers, “too easy” is a value judgment that can’t be accurately quantified. The quantification would need to occur in a political counting of votes rather than by measuring easiness (which can’t be done). Ideally, this would happen in a way that would reflect the hopes and fears of a majority of the people. But comments indicate that some people don’t trust the political process.

“Monopoly.”

– Technically, Vermont is not considering a monopoly, so far as I can find. (The defeated 2015 Responsible Ohio initiative had a lot of problems, but it wasn’t a monopoly, despite being tarred with that label.) The proposals I’ve seen would instead limit the number of businesses. The introduced version of S.214 would limit growing licenses to 173. A more recent version, labeled 2/4/2016 – MRC – 01:54 PM, provides for “a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 40 retailer licenses.” These proposals are limited licensing plans, not monopoly, or single seller (mono meaning one, or single, or unique).

“I think he should stick to North Carolina. What business is it of his?”

— You have a point. North Carolina’s Legislature sometimes seems to taking dictation from a script prepared by ALEC, the ideological American Legislative Exchange Council, and I worry about that.

Still, the rest of the country is looking for ways that work. We don’t really know how best to legalize. You in Vermont have the opportunity to improve on what Colorado and Washington started out with – and show the rest of us some things that work, so we can learn from you. That’s my hope, but this really is your business, not mine.

By the way, being on the California Blue Ribbon Commission on marijuana legalization, set up by the Lieutenant Governor, I have had some mean things said to and about me, but no one indicated minding that I was an out-of-stater.

 

 

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Author: patoglesby

From 1982 to 1990, I worked in tax policy for Committees of the United States Congress. In recent years, I was Adjunct Lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill's Business School and then Adjunct Professor at its Law School.

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