Monday, December 14, 2009

You Know Medical Marijuana is Here to Stay When the Sellers Begin Rent-Seeking

My wife pointed me to this NPR story. Some in Los Angeles think there are too many marijuana dispensaries. The City Council is considering restricting the number of dispensaries to seventy.

The obvious question would be "why should there be a limit?" The story doesn't answer that question. In fact, it doesn't even ask it. The closest they get is to suggest that dispensaries are too close to homes. I wonder if they feel the same way about alcohol sales. It is also suggested that many of the dispensaries are operating illegally, selling over-the-counter instead of by prescription only. I think marijuana should be available over-the-counter, but even if one believes that it shouldn't, the solution is to enforce the existing law, not arbitrarily limit the number of dispensaries.

As an advocate of medical marijuana points out in the story, driving sellers out of business is going to increase the black market in marijuana, with all its unpleasant effects. So given all this, why would one want to eliminate sellers of medical marijuana? Who are the "some" people that I mentioned in the second sentence of this entry? Here's a possibility: The first person interviewed in the story is the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary. Is this a classic case of the baptists and the bootleggers?

3 comments:

t11s said...

What the government is upset about is that the medical marijuana dispensaries must be "non-profit", and they think some people are making a profit (OMG!)

Then they not only tried to limit the number, but at first they suggested a rule of no marijuana collective being within 1,000 feet of a home.

Except our glorious political leaders didn't realize that ruled out most of LA!

Some visualization here:

http://blogdowntown.com/2009/12/4927-visualizing-the-debate-over-marijuana-dispensary

Mike Hammock said...

Interesting; thanks. So it sounds like the problem is really that the government is not enforcing its current regulations (i.e., it is not verifying non-profit status and it is not preventing over-the-counter sales).

I suppose one could come up with an argument in which, in a second-best world, this might be the low-cost way of dealing with these "problems", but I don't think it would be a very persuasive argument.

I wonder if it would be possible to figure out which dispensaries are in favor of this restriction, which are opposed, and whether they would be located in the "medical marijuana zones" after this policy change.

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