On Second Thought: Colorado Governor Backtracks On State’s “Reckless” Recreational Legalization

John Hickenlooper

Marijuana users and the industry itself was sent into a state of confusion yesterday when the Governor of the state that helped make marijuana recreationally legal went against most of what is going on his state. But just a day after Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper claimed that his state’s voters were “reckless” for legalizing marijuana, he attempted to defend criticism by people who disagreed with him.

Today, Hickenlooper praised  his constituents for challenging a “failed” drug war. According to an article in International Business Times, he also promised to enforce the new laws and that the state has already succeeded making the law work with minimum risks.

In a statement released by his office, Hickenlooper said, “Context is everything. I was asked if I thought it was reckless to legalize marijuana in Colorado — perhaps risky is a better word. While I believe it was risky for Colorado to be the first state to step away from a failed federal policy given all of the unanswered legal questions and implications, the adoption of Amendment 64 by Colorado voters sent a clear message to the federal government that marijuana should be legal and regulated.”

“We have a robust regulatory enforcement system that would not have been possible without the partnership of the marijuana business owners, activists, law enforcement officials, regulators, parents, policy experts and stakeholders. Together we have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and fair system that protects the public health, diminishes the underground market, and educates and keeps marijuana out of the hands of our children. We remain committed to carrying out the will of the voters, including providing marijuana businesses access to banking and maintaining a fair regulatory system.”

Hickenlooper initially made his comments during yesterday’s candidate debate in Denver, when he was asked about his views on Colorado voters’ decision to pass a 2012 ballot measure legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

During the event, Hickenlooper said, “I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless. I’m not saying it was reckless because I’ll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me I wouldn’t have done it, right. I opposed it from the very beginning. In matter of fact, all right, what the hell — I’ll say it was reckless.”

According to the Durango Herald,  moments after Hickenlooper made the comment, the governor’s director of marijuana coordination got in touch with  representatives of the marijuana industry to try to calm them down.

Marijuana Policy Project’s Mason Tvert was vocal about the Governor’s comments and after his backtackingtoday, Tvert once again reacted to the Governor’s actions.

He said, “It’s nice to hear the governor doesn’t actually think we’re reckless, but it’s still a mystery why he thinks ending a failed policy like marijuana prohibition is so risky. Prior to the passage of Amendment 64, marijuana was being sold by criminals in an uncontrolled underground market, where it was untaxed and universally available to teens. Now it is being sold by legitimate, taxpaying businesses in a tightly regulated market in which customers are actually required to provide proof of age. How is that taking a risk? Marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, and the decision to end marijuana prohibition is far less risky than the decision to end alcohol prohibition. And voters in 2012 had far more data available about marijuana than voters in 1932 had about alcohol. It’s because voters took that ‘risk’ more than 80 years ago that the governor was able to attend the Great American Beer Festival last weekend and broadcast his love of alcohol to the world via Twitter.”


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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