On Regulation: “High anxiety: The state of a highly regulated industry”

A great piece by my colleague, Cecelia Gilboy, on the state of regulation in the marijuana industry appears on the Boulder Weekly website today.

Please read it and come on back when you’re done.

One thing I want to point out is that I’m not sure politicians are all that focused on what people want. What they want is to do the minimum necessary to look like they’re doing something, and to save face at every turn.1 The day that something goes awry in the MJ industry is the day that some politician somewhere has egg on his face. They want credit when things go well, and plausible deniability when things go wrong. So, while Cecelia didn’t say it, I did relay to her that I think there’s a lot of cover-your-ass going on. (The enforcement crew, I have a lot of sympathy for. They’re in a tough spot. They see mostly good actors doing their best and yet they have to enforce some pretty ridiculous regs.)

All of that aside, there is a more basic issue at play. When we talk about pleasure in America, we get squeamish. Why else would we have to promote it for just one group: the sickest among us? “Surely these people deserve some relief,” the argument goes. Pleasure is good, but only just enough to make the sick feel “normal.” Too much… well, now, hang on there a second, mister.

There is an assumption embedded in the marijuana regulation effort that somehow, for some reason, we are participating in something that could get out of control. A pleasure overload, a blissed-out and–gasp–unproductive America could be the result. This idea of sin is just galling when you finally recognize it for what it is: an admission of our own desires and our judgement of the desires of others. What could be uglier?

This is a theme I have written about before and one which I will return to over my next post or two. For now, thanks for reading.

1. What is my evidence for this? Aside from the plague of career politicians, I submit the incredible proliferation of statutory rules that exist. When was the last time we had a congress convene to discard old rules? We add rules all the time. (It is now impossible to know every rule, which means we are all potential outlaws the moment we leave our front doors.) These laws function to a) control people, and b) provide cover when things don’t go as planned. They provide an answer to the accusatory public when things go wrong, a way for the politician to say, yes, but look: they broke the law. That is infinitely easier than saying, well, yes, but, by and large we should all be trusted to behave like adults.

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