Politics & Other Mistakes: Going potty

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Let’s list all the businesses that Portland has too many of.

(Note to the haters: Liberals do not count as a business.)

There are too many overpriced restaurants, an excess of ultra-hip bars, a surplus of twee tea shops, more than enough brewery tasting rooms with all the welcoming atmosphere of an Amazon warehouse, and speaking of Amazon, an overflow of overpriced grocery franchises. Portland doesn’t need another coffee roaster, cheese monger, law office, ICE facility, condo development, hotel, hospital expansion, tall office building, massive redevelopment on the eastern waterfront or lame winter festival.

And yet, every one of these items is legal. Not a single ordinance prevents anyone from indulging in these enterprises, as ill-advised as such ventures might be. This is, after all, a free country, and every Portlander is at liberty to court failure.

Unless they want to sell weed.

For reasons that make as much sense as Donald Trump’s foreign policy, it may soon be easier in Portland to sell guns, liquor and products manufactured in China by slave labor than to open a retail store offering marijuana for recreational purposes.

When state rules on adult-use pot kick in this spring, numerous other municipalities – including South Portland, Bangor, Auburn, Farmington, Eustis, Waterville and Hallowell – will welcome such businesses. But not Portland, which will still be too busy adding new twists to its proposed rules and regulations.

According to a Jan. 7 story in the Portland Press Herald, “The city staff wants to cap the number of retail stores allowed to sell medical or adult-use marijuana at 20, arguing that allowing any more than that would flood the market, drive down marijuana prices and make it likely that stores would fail, which wouldn’t be good for the city or the industry.”

The obvious arguments against this silly policy are that Portland has no business deciding what’s best for any particular industry, and that companies in the city fail every day without dragging down the entire economy.

So, maybe Portland needs better justifications. Let’s try this staff memo issued last October, which claims the limit on pot shops is “the most prudent way to implement not only a new ordinance, but also a completely new industry in the city.”

Memo to city staff: Entrepreneurs have been selling ganja in Portland since before most of you were born. There’s nothing new about this “industry” except getting rid of a law making it illegal and substituting proposed regulations making it nearly impossible. That’s particularly true for a sizable percentage of the population, who’ll be at a distinct disadvantage in the lottery that will allocate those 20 coveted licenses to sell the kind bud.

That’s because the drawing will be “weighted,” a polite way of saying “fixed.”

Preference will be given to women, immigrants, veterans, those who’ve lived in Maine for at least five years, those with experience selling reefer (but only if it’s legal experience), those with some other kind of retail background (“Welcome to Walmart”), those who had the foresight to lease or buy their retail space at least two years ago and also measured to make sure their storefront was at least 1,500 feet from any school (because scientific evidence shows that high school students won’t travel more than 1,500 feet to buy dope), those willing to donate 1 percent of their profits to the city for youth programs or addiction treatment (this is commonly referred to as a bribe), and finally, people who have at least $150,000 in readily available cash (which is a not-very-circumspect way of saying rich people).

Martha Stewart is probably more qualified for a Portland cannabis license than you.

Portland is setting itself up for a chronic (heh, heh) problem caused by too many regulations and too little common sense. As a result, the city’s black market will continue to flourish because its product, beyond the reach of bureaucrats, will be cheaper and more readily available.

Portland City Hall is way too uptight. A toke or two might help.

Also, fewer nail salons.

Email your tips for TLC for THC to aldiamon@herniahill.net.