As lawmakers throughout Massachusetts deal with the creation of a legal recreational marijuana industry, they are getting some advice from someone who was in a similar position just a few years ago: the Mayor of Boulder, Colorado.
Suzanne Jones was elected to the Boulder City Council in 2011 – before voters in Colorado approved adult use cannabis legalization in 2012 – and she currently serves as the city’s mayor. She was recently on a radio show in Massachusetts and she had two big pieces of advice for lawmakers in the state.
The first was to make the initial regulations and restrictions as strict as possible. “Start out strict. You can always relax your regulations as the industry proves itself,” Jones said. From a government point of view that makes sense, but the opposite is true for the entrepreneurs trying to break into the industry. From a business standpoint – especially a small business – regulations and restrictions are rarely relaxed; if anything, more are just piled on top as time goes on.
Her second piece of advice was that lawmakers should make sure legal marijuana growers are using “green energy.” “It [marijuana growing legalization] will increase your energy output, so you might as well get some added community benefit from that by having it be green energy,” she said.
Again, great from the point of view of the government, but costly for small businesses trying to get a foothold in the industry and create jobs. This is why it is often said that “government doesn’t create jobs.” At best, officials can create an environment where an industry can grow free from excessive government interference. Each new regulation and rule means less jobs and less economic growth.
Hopefully lawmakers in MA get advice from all sides of the issue, including business owners. After all, it will be the business owners who are out there creating the future legal marijuana industry in Massachusetts while officials dictate how they are allowed to do it from their offices and chambers.
Mayor Jones’ city created an “advisory panel” last year made up of officials, health experts and consumers that will make recommendations about the medical and recreational marijuana industries. Something similar will likely be created in towns and cities in Massachusetts.
The bottom line is that government officials really don’t need to overthink this issue. The tendency will be to make a rule or regulation to anticipate any possible situation that may arise. They seek to treat marijuana like a dangerous substance that must be reined in at all costs when in reality, it’s a medically beneficial substance that has been shown to be much less dangerous than alcohol.