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The Harper government is congratulating itself on its new medical marijuana program that will see a number of lucky applicants get federal licences to grow and sell pot for those who have doctors' notes showing a toke would alleviate the side-effects of their chronic illnesses. It will be a "free" market -- no holds barred on price or volume for the licence holders.

The idea is if you grow the best weed, the customers will come. Competition, then, should keep prices down and satisfaction high. That remains to be seen. The government's record on this file has been less than sterling. It tried growing the stuff, in a mine at Flin Flon, but that pot missed the mark. It allowed small, licensed growers to produce just a little bit, but then found the market demand outstripped their ability to control the flow.

So now the ailing will buy from the manufacturers, who will produce standardized weed in indoor operations under high security after vetting by the RCMP. But with this much bureaucracy all over the "free market," the hope for cheap pot may look more like a pipe dream. All this for a drug that is no worse or better than alcohol, and whose popularity indicates Canadians over the generations have declared safe. The cheaper, more reasonable option is to decriminalize and regulate pot and let the real free market determine price, quality and demand.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2013 A8

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