We can all say it: Premier Kathleen Wynne’s plan to make the Ontario government your friendly neighborhood drug dealer is insane.
Last fall, the Liberals announced a plan to sell recreational cannabis through government-run stores — like the LCBO — which will be called the Ontario Cannabis Store. Catchy, right?
It’s a model that rewards the Liberals for their strong fiscal management and commanding business acumen during the last 15 years — a sentence that few can utter without laughter.
Wynne’s government has implemented the kind of fiscal management that fueled a secret Hydro One fire sale and the kind of business acumen that has doubled our provincial debt. Don’t forget the Ontario Public Service Employees Union loves the idea of seeing pot sold by a government-run monopoly.
And instead of talking about how utterly insane that plan always was, Conservatives have been inexplicably against legalization without ever actually addressing distribution.
Conservatives had been mealy-mouthed about how fast the premier is moving on selling cannabis. They stated reasons like lack of preparedness of law enforcement. Or worse, they changed the subject entirely, pummeling the Liberals with sanctimonious accusations of announcing a plan to distract voters from the Liberal scandal of the week.
Both of these were weak arguments designed to hide an outdated view on legalization. The party — or at least it’s prior leader — seemed to be unconvinced about legalization — or at least unable to take a clear position.
That has changed. Newly-chosen PC leader Doug Ford has taken on the Liberals’ insane distribution plan. He recognizes where we’re at and, more importantly, what needs to happen.
Ford told Ontarians that he’s not a fan of monopolies and is considering getting the government out of the business of selling cannabis when it’s legalized later this year.
Free markets — a common sense idea and hopefully the first of many in uncharted territory for him. And whether or not you agree with legalization — we’re here now, so let’s be conservative about it.
Let me take a second to remind you that one of the main arguments for legalization is that regulation of cannabis theoretically puts an end to the black market. Conservatives will agree, that’s a good thing. Even those who don’t agree with legalization.
Advocates have long said that the best way to destroy black markets is to have free markets.
And while the reason for Ford’s position might be rooted in economics or ideology — killing a criminal black market might just be the answer his caucus colleagues and candidates need to finally get onboard.
Here is one example that might give some conservatives the cover they desire. Colorado, a state which legalized adult recreational cannabis in 2012, recognized the existence of a black market.
Instead of trying to keep those selling pot out of the legal framework — like Wynne is doing — lawmakers in Colorado literally brought them in from the dark, licensed and regulated them. Furthermore, they continue to monitor their operations for any illegal activity.
As a result, almost everyone was an instant participant in an open and free market. Today in Colorado, the black market is virtually non-existent. The economic benefits are well known, and no one buys pot from a government bureaucrat.
Ford just made a strong election play. And no matter what argument you use, free market cannabis is a conservative position — let’s hope the PC Party caucus and their candidates agree.