Under Steve Tilley’s Proposed Marijuana Monopoly, is Missouri the New Illinois?

In today’s Missouri Scout, Dave Drebes discusses the prospects for Missouri Representative Dave Hinson’s HB 800 and notes:

But this is not the entire story. It might be a conservative principle that the government should not interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, but HB 800 only advances that goal modestly, by allowing marijuana therapy for a select list of conditions (cancer, HIV/AIDs, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, colitis, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD). In other words, the legislature is engaging in the central planning of medical marijuana therapy and getting credit as if this bill represents a minimal governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine. A truly conservative approach to this issue would simply grant doctors the ability to dispense marijuana therapy as they see fit.

But this isn’t the worst aspect of HB 800. Indeed, HB 800 establishes monopoly access to marijuana cultivation and commerce through a substantially restrictive licensing program that allows for the provision of 30 licenses for those purposes (by contrast, there are some 12,500 licenses active for on and off-premise alcohol sales in the state of Missouri).

We might look at how Illinois is dealing with medical marijuana. In Illinois, the state law allows for 60 dispensary and 21 cultivation licenses.

Last year, I worked to connect Illinois license applicants with consultants from Oregon and Colorado. We met a series of potential clients in Quincy, Illinois, at Al Capone’s old Quincy lakehouse (which is owned by Bob Lansing). Bob was an interesting guy; as I recall he used to run an Anheuser-Busch distributorship, which accounted for his fortune. Bob was also one of the most overtly racist people I’ve ever met (albeit in a jovial, nonthreatening way); he called me and other members of the diverse group of consultants every ethnic slur in the book (I had to check the Wikipedia list of ethnic slurs to keep up).

In short, he was a rich man with nothing to lose and no one to naysay him. Not that I personally care one way or the other, I don’t have an objection to people like Bob getting marijuana operation licenses (which he did). But if Missourians are going to hew to “conservative” principles in designing a medical marijuana program, we shouldn’t create monopoly structures for the industry to exist under. Indeed, the best check on rich, racist operators entering the industry is an open market where competition allows both entrepreneurs and consumers to interact freely.

HB 800 is legislation conceived under the same guiding principles as Illinois’s medical marijuana law. Indeed, it’s the creature of the lobbying effort started by the Colorado-based Realm of Caring organization, and continued by their Missouri subsidiary, Missourians for Compassionate Care (MOCC). Like Bob Lansing’s fortune, MOCC derives part of their funding from the Busch family, one of the wealthiest and most pedigreed families in the state of Missouri.

Steve Tilley and Mark Habbas may believe in the conservative principles of limited government and free markets. But when it comes to medical marijuana, they are defending crony capitalism of the worst variety: monopoly.

This is a dangerous precedent for the Missouri legislature to be setting. Creating one monopoly structure for industry in Missouri will inevitably lead to other efforts to create further monopolies in other industries.

It’s worth supporting HB 800 for the limited relief it will bring to patients, and for the fact that it lessens the criminal status of marijuana in Missouri. But the monopoly provisions in the legislation should be vigorously opposed by all who believe in the words “liberty and justice for all”.

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