Washington state issues first marijuana business licenses today

Again, like the Hobby Lobby ruling, I’m supposed to rejoice at my home state’s first issuance of marijuana business licenses as a step towards individual freedom, as well as an example of successful nullification of unconstitutional federal acts.

Forgive me if I’m less than euphoric, but the more you look into the whole matter the more you realize the state has gained enormous regulatory powers over something they had little or no control over when it was run on the black market. The state’s Liquor Control Board not only issues licenses, but if there are more business applications than the maximum allowed per city, the licenses are handed out based on the results of a lottery.

In other words, you do not have the right to start a marijuana business. You must receive permission of the state-run Board first, and only a chosen few will receive permission. Even then, municipalities can impose further regulations. Marijuana businesses are treated like liquor stores and banned from opening within 1,000 feet of schools and other such places. For property owners, this also infers they do not own their property because they must receive permission before they are allowed to lease a business. (And in case someone defends these regulations, I can assure you that such measures are as successful keeping out drugs in high schools as gun-free zones are at keeping out guns).

While I appreciate the fact that the state has implemented this voter-approved initiative in defiance of federal threats and grandstanding, the reality is that the industry is still tightly controlled and regulated by the state and other jurisdiction. The result will be that marijuana will still remain a black market commodity; whenever it is cheaper and more profitable to do something illegally, it will be done illegally. 

Take the Johnson family, which for years sold moonshine on the black market, even after Prohibition was repealed, because “like many other farming families, (they) relied on the money from their whisky to survive. If they had paid the taxes on their spirits, they would not have had enough money to take care of the family.”

For the record, I do not smoke marijuana. I have never smoked marijuana. I will never smoke marijuana. This isn’t about what I like to do. It’s about what I and everyone else should be free to do because it is our natural right. It’s also about the negative consequences that arise from banning a substance.

This only goes to show the dangers of a business licenses, or any state-issued license. A license infers that you do not have a right to do something. It is a privilege granted to you by someone who has power and authority over you. When the state or other entities require a license, it also infers they have the right to revoke your license or can withhold it for reasons they deem appropriate. Most of the time, they do not fully exercise their regulatory powers, but they still reserve them, nonetheless.

Imagine if they used the same logic when it came to other business besides marijuana. Imagine if they decided that there should only be a limited number of grocery stores in a given city, or only so many gun stores or real estate agencies. Imagine if they then decided to use a lottery system to decide who got a business license.

It sounds absurd and highly improbable, but my point isn’t that they would do it. By requiring a license they are claiming they have the authority to do it if they want to do it.

So while other political activists cheer at the ability to receive permission to open up a business and engage in commerce peacefully without being kidnapped or having their property stolen, I’ll be keeping the champagne corked until something more politically significant takes place.

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