William Watson: Supply management for weed? Are you people high?

Article by William Watson, Financial Post

What were they smoking? Actually, the report of the federal government’s task force on how to legalize and regulate marijuana isn’t all that bad, as these things go. I just couldn’t resist that line. One part of the report that seemed remarkably clear-headed was its recounting that: “The vast majority of respondents to the (task force’s) online consultation expressed a preference for a competitive private-sector production model, noting that this would allow for a greater variety and diversity of products with fair pricing.”

‘Far out!,’ I thought when I read that. An online consultation that provides a strong pro-market message! Canadians’ thinking about markets has come a long way! FP Comment is having its desired effect! But then I read in the report’s Annex 5, which is an analysis of the online consultation by consultants Hill and Knowlton, that 49 per cent of the 5,760-28,800 participants in the survey said they use cannabis for recreational purposes while another 30 per cent use it for medicinal purposes. You’d expect that people who break the law, or at least tiptoe around it to use their favourite mind-altering drug would have libertarian instincts, which probably explains the free-market sentiment. (The reason the report is foggy on how many survey-takers there were is that there were actually five surveys on different subjects and people could take all five if they wanted.)

I hope Hill & Knowlton weren’t paid too much to sift through all these responses (though what Ottawa consulting firm isn’t paid too much?). The problem with all such online consultations is that people self-select into them. As a result the opinions you get, while they may constitute useful brainstorming, aren’t in any way representative. For instance, does anyone really believe the current consultation on voting systems isn’t oversubscribed by voting-system nerds? (Hello, Andrew Coyne!) Yet governments today feel it’s de rigueur in doing any kind of analysis to have an online consultation. We should be far enough into the Internet age now to understand these surveys are the fake-news version of opinion sounding and should be dispensed with.

What were they smoking? Actually, the report of the federal government’s task force on how to legalize and regulate marijuana isn’t all that bad, as these things go. I just couldn’t resist that line. One part of the report that seemed remarkably clear-headed was its recounting that: “The vast majority of respondents to the (task force’s) online consultation expressed a preference for a competitive private-sector production model, noting that this would allow for a greater variety and diversity of products with fair pricing.”

‘Far out!,’ I thought when I read that. An online consultation that provides a strong pro-market message! Canadians’ thinking about markets has come a long way! FP Comment is having its desired effect! But then I read in the report’s Annex 5, which is an analysis of the online consultation by consultants Hill and Knowlton, that 49 per cent of the 5,760-28,800 participants in the survey said they use cannabis for recreational purposes while another 30 per cent use it for medicinal purposes. You’d expect that people who break the law, or at least tiptoe around it to use their favourite mind-altering drug would have libertarian instincts, which probably explains the free-market sentiment. (The reason the report is foggy on how many survey-takers there were is that there were actually five surveys on different subjects and people could take all five if they wanted.)

I hope Hill & Knowlton weren’t paid too much to sift through all these responses (though what Ottawa consulting firm isn’t paid too much?). The problem with all such online consultations is that people self-select into them. As a result the opinions you get, while they may constitute useful brainstorming, aren’t in any way representative. For instance, does anyone really believe the current consultation on voting systems isn’t oversubscribed by voting-system nerds? (Hello, Andrew Coyne!) Yet governments today feel it’s de rigueur in doing any kind of analysis to have an online consultation. We should be far enough into the Internet age now to understand these surveys are the fake-news version of opinion sounding and should be dispensed with.

Read full article here.

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