Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Andy Cross, Denver Post file)

Gov. Hickenlooper talks marijuana, western issues at governors meeting

COLORADO SPRINGS — Governor John Hickenlooper called recreational marijuana the “great social experiment of the 21st Century,” as he joined his gubernatorial counterparts in a panel discussion Tuesday about issues that impact Western states.

“There are risks that we’re just beginning to understand and there should be caution,”said Hickenlooper on the topic of marijuana, as he addressed attendees of the Western Governors’ Association annual meeting at the Broadmoor Hotel.

Hickenlooper, when asked about deaths associated with marijuana edibles and a recent New York Times piece by columnist Maureen Dowd in which she wrote about a bad experience getting high, noted that lawmakers this past session passed a measure requiring the state’s department of revenue to explore ways to clearly identify edible marijuana products and proper dosages.

“We’ll get it worked out, I guarantee by the time the legislative session begins next year, we will not have those same problems,” he said.

That New York Times edibles column: Get all the stories about Maureen Dowd’s bad trip on marijuana-infused candy when she visited Denver

Hickenlooper, the current chairman of the WGA, on Tuesday was joined for the panel discussion by a bipartisan group of governors, which included Steve Bullock of Montana, Matt Mead of Wyoming and Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

The group discussed issues that ranged from new rules announced by the Environmental Protection Agency last week that set a goal of cutting carbon pollution by 30 percent nationwide to droughts and wildfires.

President Barack Obama Monday spoke with the governors via telephone to discuss new funding strategies to fight wildfires — a persistent problem that is only expected to worsen here in Colorado in the decades to come, officials say. Colorado this year set aside about $20 million dollars to contract for an aerial fleet to fight any wildfires.

Hickenlooper joked that the other governors on the panel will want to borrow Colorado aircraft, and that the state “will be generous” with helping out.

Bullock said that Montana each year sets aside money to fight wildfires, which he said “are almost always certain.” Sandoval noted that about 80 percent of Nevada is federal land.

“Because of that there has to be proportional contribution from the federal government,” said Sandoval, a Republican. “We can’t afford to buy planes to put out fires on federal land.”

The annual meeting wraps up Wednesday with the election of Sandoval as the new chairman. Many national observers view Sandoval as a rising star within the GOP.

When Hickenlooper was asked who on the panel has the best shot at landing on a national political ticket, he said without hesitation: “Brian Sandoval, definitely Sandoval.”

Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, or

Changes ahead: A task force has come up with many ideas to help purchasers of marijuana edibles avoid over-consumption

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