Denver Councilman: Rein In Medical Marijuana

This concern arises amid a conversation about councilman Charlie Brown's presentation of proposed medical-marijuana regulations to the council's safety committee on Wednesday. Nevitt had earlier felt that he and Brown were far apart in their approach to this issue -- but he was impressed by what CB brought to the table.

"I really appreciated the seriousness with which he's approaching this," Nevitt says. "I think maybe he started out in a kind of knee-jerk way: 'People are upset and we need to do something about this.' But he's clearly really engaged. He's been talking not just to residents, but also to the medical-marijuana industry -- and a lot of elements that he's proposed make a lot of sense to me.

"The critical feature is taxation, which we've already got figured out," Nevitt goes on, joking that "we were into it before it was cool -- but the state is catching up, which I'm glad to see. We'll be taxing it. And I think our food safety regimen is absolutely critical to create."

Not that he and Brown and intellectually in concert on every facet of the subject.

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"The places I disagree with Charlie have principally to do with what I think are additional and currently unwarranted burdens on the medical-marijuana industry," Nevitt notes. "All his requirements for security cameras and the filing of a business plan, the hiring of security guards, and the location restrictions -- medical-marijuana businesses can only be located a certain distance from schools, churches and each other.

"I'm a strong believer in efficient government, and I don't believe we should be spending taxpayer money to apply the force of government unless we know what problem we're solving, and that we're solving it as efficiently as possible. It could be that we need to establish location restrictions, for example, but that's far from having been demonstrated. And I don't think we should be throwing regulations in the way of a new industry until we know that those regulations are necessary."

There could be plenty of unintended consequences if regulatory measures prove too costly, he believes.

"My training is in political economy, and I think about getting the prices right," he allows. "And if we make medical marijuana so expensive by throwing a whole lot of pointless regulations in front of it, we're going to drive up the price. We're going to reduce the supply and we're going to increase the cost of doing business.

"If you think about that from a straight-forward entrepreneurial perspective, when the price of medical marijuana starts to get too high, it could match the price in the illegal market. Then people will be indifferent to doing things the legal way. They'll think, 'Why bother with the legal market? It costs me the same to go illegal, and it's a lot easier.' And that would be perverse."

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