Business

Editorial: Back free markets – even for marijuana

Santa Ana followed through on some changes to its marijuana ordinance this week, doubling down on the radical notion that allowing reputable and legal businesses to operate like reputable and legal businesses encourages them to be reputable.

“The amendments include allowing pot delivery to qualified patients, caregivers, or testing and research and development facilities, rather than completely prohibiting it; and extending dispensary operating hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays, to 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily,” the Register reported.

The changes, the dispensaries owners hope, will allow them to operate like other drugstores such as Rite Aid. But the council also changed some rules that permit the dispensaries to operate like any other business in the city.

As the Register noted, “The existing overnight cash limit of $200 was eliminated, consistent with any other commercial establishment; and the sign allowance was broadened from one non-illuminated wall sign up to 10 square feet in size, to allow wall signs to be installed in compliance with the city’s standard sign code.”

“For the record, I’m not a fan of the marijuana industry, but as professionals we need to be fair to all the legal establishments,” Councilman Juan Villegas said.

And he’s right. The dispensaries are legally permissible businesses, and they should be treated as such. Regardless of one’s opinion on marijuana, the reality is that it is already in our community; the only difference is whether the transaction occurs on the street or in a reputable, tax-paying business like those operating in Santa Ana.

The vast majority of city councils in our community seem to cling to the not-in-my-backyard view of marijuana. But, Santa Ana continues to prove that legal marijuana doesn’t have to be scary. Rather than continue to fight these establishments, Santa Ana has shown that the competitive pressures of the free market incentivize businesses to behave appropriately — something those who advocate for free markets should have already known.

As we’ve previously noted, other cities should look to open the door to legitimate businesses. They might find that the free market works outside of Santa Ana, too.