"Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it." — Ronald Reagan
Today, not much about Colorado's economy moves. The state is broke and releases prisoners because it cannot afford to keep them. The governor slashes the higher education budget 40 percent. People lose jobs, homes and financial security. Our leaders face serious issues.
And what keeps some politicians up at night? That sneaking suspicion that some suffering cancer patient may gain limited pain relief through medical marijuana, coupled with that gnawing certainty that someone, somewhere, actually grew the plant for that patient.
But government cannot repeal the laws of supply and demand, and cannot extinguish the spark of freedom in peoples' hearts. Now, the marijuana distribution chain becomes legal. Responsible entrepreneurs open shops to supply a skyrocketing demand for medicine. These small businesses serve needy patients. They pay taxes. They hire employees. They lease space. They advertise. And the drug war industrial complex can't stand it.
Most elected leaders have a good sense of proportion regarding this issue. A minority of politicians, however, avoid reasonable proposals to tax and regulate marijuana, and instead irresponsibly fear-monger in the worst tradition of Prohibition-era "Reefer Madness" propaganda. We hear racially charged tales of "Mexican cartels" supposedly running the medical marijuana business, when the truth is Colorado homegrown marijuana puts foreign cartels out of business, and it is law enforcement that enriches cartels through hostility to medical marijuana.
We hear local bureaucrats complain about dispensaries, and then in the same breath enact moratoria, thus granting government-enforced monopolies to the very shops that offend them, and shutting out newer entrepreneurs who would do more responsible business. Government can help lower the high cost of medicine, but artificially restricting supply has the opposite effect.
We hear unsupported anecdotal government propaganda about how dispensaries "attract crime," when the truth is these shops, which are generally open only in daylight hours, have security systems and are not open to the general public and only admit registered patients, and are safer than convenience stores, liquor stores, bars, gas stations or banks.
We hear government hysteria about how these shops should not be near schools, without a single documented case of a child obtaining marijuana from a dispensary. On Ninth and Corona streets in Denver is a small liquor store and a pharmacy, both legally dispensing drugs far more potent that marijuana, and both directly across the street from a large public elementary school. And this is not a problem. Children are not wandering in to buy narcotics or liquor. It is another example of an imaginary concern designed to justify irrational restrictions.
We also hear government officials with no formal medical training demonizing and second-guessing private confidential decisions of trained physicians who advise patients. Government should not interfere with private medical decisions.
Some officials even contend that although medical marijuana is legal, it is not legal to actually produce or distribute it. However, the Colorado Constitution legalizes "acquisition, possession, manufacture, production, use, sale, distribution, dispensing, or transportation of marijuana" for medical use."
If "sale," "distribution," and even "dispensing" are legal, then a "dispensary" is legal. And if "manufacture" and "production" are legal, then growing is legal.
Many of these proposals would drive vulnerable patients away from the well-lit, safe, secure, private, confidential medical marijuana dispensary and put them and their wheelchairs back in the dangerous black market.
There are two positive results of this government hysteria: Thousands more Coloradoans are aware that they have the option of being legal medical marijuana patients; and voters continue discussions of the wisdom of continuing Prohibition. This is a debate that freedom wins and government nannyism loses.
Robert J. Corry Jr.
November 2, 2009