NYC Stupid Pot Laws (2024 May)

by Barry A. Liebling

In 2021 New York State made pot (also known as cannabis, marijuana, grass, and other names) legal. Adults can buy, possess, and consume pot without fear that the law will punish them. Usage of pot has probably increased since chronic users simply continued to indulge in their habit, and (the relatively rare) adults that refrained from smoking pot because it was against the law no longer had this barrier.

On balance I regard the decriminalization of pot as a correct policy. I am fine with people using pot privately as long as they do not molest others.

Here is my personal background related to this issue. I am not – and never have been – a pot user. There is nothing about pot that is attractive to me. I dislike the aroma of pot (and anything that is smoked). If anyone seeks my advice, my recommendation is to stay away from it. I believe that indulging in pot is unhealthy (for sure) and probably long-term toxic.

So why should it be legal? I recognize that individual liberty is essential. Free people make their own decisions regarding how they conduct their lives. If a person thinks carefully and correctly, lifestyle decisions will generally be good. Everyone makes mistakes and has a long list of bad actions. But good people attempt to identify their errors and improve their lives. In general, people who consistently – over the long-run – indulge in foolish, self-destructive behavior have only themselves to blame.

So when the New York State government made this change in the law, I thought it was the proper policy. But, of course, there is always more. Spoiler alert: When government meddlers get involved in commerce they inevitably defile everything they touch.

Instead of leaving things alone, the government busybodies made a rule that weed can only be sold legally via officially licensed stores. If you want to acquire a license you have to apply to the State agency. Apparently, there is a significant wait time for applicants.

How does the New York State agency determine who receives a license to sell pot? Because the State government is ruled by woke enthusiasts the process is inspired by the leftist progressive playbook. Special preferences are given to persons who are deemed to be “oppressed” and therefore deserving of government prizes. This includes people who have been convicted of pot-related crimes, “minority owned businesses,” and “women owned businesses.” The State agency is officially committed to dispensing half of all licenses to “social and economic equity applicants.” and also

The situation as of this writing is interesting. In Manhattan (where I live) a huge number of cannabis stores are open for business. It seems that I encounter at least one outlet every few blocks. If anyone is interested in purchasing pot there is no shortage of brick-and-mortar dispensers. I assume these stores are making money since they all have to pay rent, and they continue to operate.

But the stores that I see when I stroll are not licensed. They are technically illegal. The official outlets that have the approval of the government are nowhere to be found. It is reported that city inspectors periodically close down these “illicit” vendors, and the stores open up again the next day. Apparently, the penalty for selling pot without a license is not a strong deterrent.

So the bulk of the in-store pot business in New York City is being conducted by people who do not have a license. And the small number of state-anointed retailers are angry that they are losing sales to intruders that never received the government’s blessing. The license holders are furious and urging state bosses to intervene and stamp out the sellers who are competing against them.

If a customer wants to purchase pot why would that person prefer a licensed store to one that is not endorsed by the government? Is it providing better products? Does it sell pot at a better price? How much value does the New York State stamp of approval have in the eyes of the buyer? I suspect that most pot buyers are not impressed with the official government imprimatur. After all, until 2021 they have been purchasing cannabis when it was against the law.

What will happen next? Perhaps the State will clamp down on unlicensed store-front dealers and do its best to extinguish their presence. But that will create an opportunity for traditional pot sellers (who do commerce on the street) to step in and conduct business just as they have before 2021. If the street vendors offer a better price and have a good reputation in the eyes of their customers why go to a government store?

Perhaps the State will make it easy to obtain a license so anyone who wants to sell pot can do so with government approval. But this is unacceptable to New York State honchos since their entire rationale for licensing is to give special prizes to groups the woke elite favor. The intention is to create a monopoly that is controlled by the progressive left ruling class. If too many people are allowed to sell pot, it is no longer a restrictive monopoly.

What should happen? Making things right is, unfortunately, tremendously difficult because those who wield government coercive force are loath to give it up. The right policy is to get rid of the licenses. Let anyone who wants to sell pot do so. There are appropriate laws against fraud, so vendors will always be responsible for delivering the real thing. If there is going to be a market for cannabis, it should be a free market.

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