Our view: Free enterprise — up in smoke | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Free enterprise — up in smoke

At issue

City Council continues to limit the number of licensed pot retailers to three

Our view

It's not about pot; it's about free enterprise

Steamboat Springs City councilwoman Sonja Macys was correct this week to call on her fellow council members to revisit the question of how many retail marijuana outlets in Steamboat are appropriate from a free market standpoint.

We understand that some segments of the community and some visitors are uncomfortable with legalized marijuana. But that apprehension isn’t sufficient justification for City Council to place false limits on the growth of one narrow segment of retailing in Steamboat Springs. It isn’t fair to other entrepreneurs, and it isn’t fair to consumers – competition, after all, exerts downward pressure on prices.

Can you imagine City Council telling someone planning to open a new hardware store or a restaurant, “No, thank you, Steamboat already has enough of those?”

Council President Bart Kounovsky pronounced in early January 2014, after a license for Rocky Mountain Remedies was approved, that Steamboat Springs had entered a “bold new era.” When did council become so timid about expanding an emerging retail category?

We give current pot retailers their due — they appear, at least from the outside, to be operating in a responsible manner.

But we found many of the comments that existing pot retailers made to City Council this week arguing against allowing more competition in the market to be patently self-serving. One retailer actually talked about protecting Steamboat’s small town character. Of course the existing operators, who are assuredly realizing outstanding profits from their operations that collectively grossed $6.8 million in 2014, are happy with the way things are. Of course, they want to protect their employee base. Of course, they say they are already meeting market demand. But protectionism is not how we operate in our free market system.

It’s not surprising change comes gradually to the merchandising of a drug that has been taboo for many decades. It’s comparable to early 20th century America emerging from the prohibition against alcohol. Today, we think nothing of selling alcohol at a city park or the county fairgrounds.

We believe that, a decade into the future, we won’t be having this discussion because it will have become a routine matter, like granting new liquor licenses.

It is noteworthy that council members, in their role as the liquor licensing authority, also recently approved the city’s 100th liquor license.  

We say: Like them or not, retail marijuana stores are legal in Colorado, and we believe in free markets in the Centennial State.

If there is a segment of the pot industry we find deeply concerning, it’s the potential for private, unlicensed grow facilities, which can generate large sums of cash that is difficult to track.

Marijuana retailing, as we are coming to know it, is in a post-prohibition era, where society is gradually coming to terms with change. And we believe the industry should be regulated and permitted in the same way liquor licenses are.

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