My friend Keith Stroup, past head of the marijuana consumer lobby NORML and still working with NORML for legalization, would not put government sales at the top of list of options for distributing marijuana. Bureaucratic inefficiency looms. Nonetheless, Keith authorized me to quote him expressing non-opposition to experimentation with the government as seller: “It is in the best interest of consumers to experiment with as many models of legalization as we can come up with so we can evaluate and see which models work best.”
I agree. I would go further than Keith: My own view is that government sellers allow the kinds of controls and price stability the public may want. And as advocates seek to provide relief for groups and individuals who suffered from prohibition of marijuana in the past, set-asides of licenses in favor of certain individuals are an unwieldy tool, risking charges of capriciousness and cronyism. Putting the profits in the government till and dedicating some of those profits to relief is a more transparent and probably more equitable solution.
But let a thousand flowers bloom. The North Bonneville, Washington, municipally owned Cannabis Corner has been selling at retail for well over two years. As Keith said, Let’s see what works best.
I’m to be on an economics panel at a NORML conference in DC September 11. Government sales may come up.