Reading this article about the proliferation of illegal pot shops in New York City. Since the Democrats in control of the state’s legalization policy have prioritized equity in licensing, there are but four (four!) legal weed shops in all of New York City after two years of legalization.
Hochul pitched new legislation last month that would slap businesses $10,000 per day for selling pot without a license and fine stores peddling black market weed from out of state up to $200,000.https://nypost.com/2023/04/23/ny-crackdown-on-illegal-weed-shops-doomed-to-fail-as-owners-hide-in-the-shadows-lawyers-say/
Back when marijuana was strictly illegal, when the mere smell of it would draw police attention, when simply being caught in possession of it meant immediate arrest, there was a proliferation of illegal weed stores in New York City. But now, when the smell and possession of weed is legal, law enforcement’s going to really crack down.
Give me a break. The biggest mistake made in marijuana legalization—either by states being too right-wing and wanting to commoditize cannabis like a tightly-controlled pharmaceutical or by states being too left-wing and wanting to reorganize cannabis capitalism to act as de facto racial reparations—is in taking cannabis away from what it always has been: a farm-to-table model of laissez faire commerce. A person growing a plant under a light in a closet. A hippie growing dozens of smart pots out in the woods. Organized crime cultivating in converted grow houses. Tokers buying their weed from “the guy” in the parking lot or behind shop class or at the concert.
All these layers of licensing and merit-testing, security and regulation, create an artificial scarcity for cannabis supply. At the same time, legalization opens up an increase to true cannabis demand that had been artificially depressed by threat of arrest.
All that time we had been fighting to “treat marijuana like alcohol,” we should have been fighting to “legalize (what we’re already doing with) marijuana.” We already had production, processing, distribution, and retail all figured out. We should have just slapped an production license on who was already farming, with minimal regulation and random inspections for contaminants and pesticides. Given out peddler permits for the folks already dealing weed, with random stings to catch those dealing to minors. But the licenses, fees, and regulation can’t be more onerous than opening up any other kind of small business, or the ease and profit of selling weed illicitly is too attractive.
Unfortunately, everybody aside from the marijuana consumer now has a vested interest in keeping the price of marijuana artificially high. The states want to keep that high tax percent on a high-priced ounce to continue. Shop owners need to sell high-priced ounces to make profit. Legal weed farms want to sell at higher wholesale prices. Illicit weed dealers are happy to see the legal price remain so high they can still profit while undercutting it. Pot haters don’t want to see even lower prices that they believe entice kids to toke (it doesn’t, it hasn’t, it won’t).
A decade into legalization and I hate to say it, but the Treat It Like Tomatoes crowd was ultimately right. I still don’t think that was any kind of model that could’ve realistically begun marijuana legalization in America. But as we get closer to the tipping point of half the U.S.A. having legal weed, and as we look forward to a future of marijuana banking and interstate commerce, the nature of cannabis being a literal weed is going to overwhelm any attempts to artificially restrict its supply. After all, have you seen the price of tomatoes?