Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper during his State of the State address on the House chambers of the Capitol Jan. 12, 2017.

Colorado politician takes on Gov. Hickenlooper over marijuana risks

An El Paso County commissioner on Tuesday publicly accused Gov. John Hickenlooper of turning a blind eye to potential negative effects of legal recreational marijuana to protect an industry that has generated millions in tax revenue for the state.

The governor called Longinos Gonzalez Jr.’s claim “absolute nonsense” during a question-and-answer session at an annual winter conference for Colorado local governments, held at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs.

The clash, which highlights the staunch anti-marijuana stance of many elected leaders in El Paso County, comes as Sheriff Bill Elder is gearing up for an enforcement effort aimed at stamping out hundreds of illegal grows in rural parts of the county that he and other officials view as a public safety risk.

Gonzalez cited issues that anti-marijuana advocates across the state have used repeatedly in their arguments against the drug’s legalization: an increase in marijuana-related car crashes, a rising number of underage residents who have begun using the drug and a surge in homelessness – all claims that the industry’s proponents contend have been debunked.

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