Who gets marijuana licenses?

UPDATED 22 December 2020

Some say let everyone grow cannabis, and Oklahoma is hosting a free-for-all, but some Legislators don’t think marijuana is an ordinary commodity, and think limiting its commerce might protect the public’s health. So they limit licenses.

There are various ways of dealing with excess applicants for marijuana licenses, like holding a lottery, as Washington state did; selling licenses to the high bidder, as colonial India did in the 1800s; or, as the Roosevelt Administration did in 1933, considering each application on its merits and deciding yes or no for each application.  Voucher privatization, where each voter gets a transferrable fraction of the overall quota, may seem far-fetched, but it may be worth a look in Theoryland.

Marijuana licensing “on the merits” leads to disappointed applicants.  At best, merit selection (in the USA) has led to an enormous amount of energy going into appeals and litigation.  At worst, it’s corrupt crony capitalism.

Even lotteries require threshold qualification, whose denial can engender appeals and litigation.  Social equity licensing adds more complexity if not uncertainty.

The Merits in the 1930s

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