Is Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper starting to come around on the issue of legal marijuana? After a quick stroll through our archives and a viewing of a recent Fox Business interview with the Democrat (above) where he says of marijuana, “it’s not as vexing as we thought it was going to be,” it certainly seems like it.
A headline from Dec. 2013: “Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Hancock won’t attend pot retail sales.” From Feb. 2014: “Gov. Hickenlooper urges caution for fellow governors when it comes to legalization.” From Oct. 2014: “Hickenlooper: Colorado voters ‘reckless’ about legal weed.” From Dec. 2014: “Colo. Gov. Hickenlooper would have reversed pot legalization if he could.” From Jan. 2015: “Gov. Hickenlooper optimistic about legal weed on ‘60 Minutes’.” Also from Jan. 2015: “Gov. Hickenlooper makes pot banking priority in State of the State speech.”
And now this headline — “Colorado Gov.: Pot is ‘not as vexing as we thought it was going to be’ (video)” — tied to “Opening Bell” host Maria Bartiromo’s interview with Hickenlooper at the Milken Institute Global Conference, which runs through today.
Bartiromo began the interview by congratulating Hickenlooper on Colorado’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, “way below the national average,” she said. Later on, around the 3:50 mark, she asked the governor about marijuana — and he started his answer by acknowledging the number of millenials moving to Colorado, something he’d already addressed in the interview.
“It’s all those young people coming, and they look at marijuana and say, ‘Hey we can drink whiskey, why can’t we have a legalized system with marijuana?’ If you look back it’s turned out to not be as vexing as some of the people like myself — I opposed the original vote, didn’t think it was a good idea. Now the voters spoke so we’re trying to make it work, and I think we are.
“Again, it’s not as vexing as we thought it was going to be, but at the same time it hasn’t been the economic boon that some promoters thought it would be. I think we are slowly, through hard work, building a regulatory system, making sure we keep it out of the hands of kids, making sure we keep our streets and roads safe, making sure we kill that illegal black market — drug dealers don’t care who they sell to. And we’re getting there.”
Bartiromo responded to the governor with a measured observation and perhaps some hyperbole about her own network’s pot coverage: “I think you’re right. When we did a special a couple years ago on marijuana, it was the single-best, most-watched program ever on cable, and we were all like, ‘Wow, what does this say about America?’ America smokes pot.”
Hickenlooper answered by noting that cannabis use hasn’t spiked in Colorado.
“The people who used to be smoking it are still smoking it. They’re now just paying taxes. The people who didn’t smoke it still aren’t. We haven’t seen a spike. But I think there is a real expectation from people even that don’t smoke it: You shouldn’t go to jail, and it isn’t that much worse than whiskey or beer.”
Colorado’s governor also told Fox Business that the state is considering lowering its marijuana taxes.
“We’re still trying to adjust the taxes to make sure we get rid of the black market,” he said, “so we might actually end up having to lower the taxes a little bit.”
Colorado-rooted legalization advocate Mason Tvert said he welcomes the governor’s new turn.
“It’s great to see the governor recognizes that regulating marijuana is working in Colorado and that it has many benefits,” said Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Polls show more voters support the law now than did when it was approved, and it appears he might be part of that late majority.
“Just about everyone who takes an objective look at what is happening in Colorado agrees that things are going quite well.”