Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper really feels about marijuana

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Alicia Wallace has an interesting article in the Cannabist:

In 2012, when Colorado voters wanted their state to legalize weed for adult recreational use, Gov. John Hickenlooper was thrust into an interesting predicament.

The moderate Democrat had stood in opposition to Amendment 64, a measure he felt would send the wrong message to kids, create public health risks, detract from Colorado’s desirability, and, not to mention, stoke the ire of the feds.

But voters’ will spoke and Hickenlooper became an extremely reluctant figurehead and participant in one of the most unique social and political experiments in recent years.

Nearly five years after that historic vote and a little more than three years since the regulated adult-use sales began, that experiment is ongoing and Colorado’s regulations are evolving. And on this front, the broader national landscape is flush with activity: While eight states, including Colorado, now have recreational marijuana laws, the federal government may no longer be a sleeping giant.

The experiment is headed toward a crossroads.

Hickenlooper this week sat down briefly with The Cannabist to address topics such as the looming threat of increased federal enforcement, how Colorado has fared thus far, 2017 state legislation to allow for the social use and home delivery of medical marijuana, his views as the parent of a teen and more.

(The following has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: We’re three years into recreational marijuana sales in the state. How’s it going? What are your biggest concerns and priorities at this time — both in terms of the regulatory as well as industry development?

Hickenlooper: Always our primary focus has been public safety and to make sure that kids … we’re not going to see a big spike in teenagers using marijuana. I’d say in most circumstances, from most perspectives, our worst nightmares haven’t materialized.

We haven’t seen a spike in teenage use. We haven’t seen a giant increase in people’s consumption of marijuana. Seems like the people who were using marijuana before it was legal, still are. Seems like the people who weren’t using marijuana before it was legal, still aren’t.

Obviously now, (the) appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions has added an additional level of complexity; but overall, I’d say that the experiment — as it continues to move forward — has gone better certainly than I anticipated and I think certainly better than many people anticipated. Doesn’t mean that we’re completely out of the woods. We don’t have sufficient data to say there aren’t still unintended consequences that we need to address. But it’s certainly not as bad as what most people thought.

Q: You referenced Attorney General Sessions and I know you’re well aware of the remarks that both he and White House spokesman Sean Spicer have made in regard to potential enforcement as it relates to state-based cannabis programs. What could be the most likely courses of action that the feds may take, and what would your responses be?

Hickenlooper: It’s hard to predict what the action will be. Most of the lawyers I talk to find no legal difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana as it relates to federal law. So to crack down on only recreational marijuana and leave medical marijuana untouched, seems unlikely – if you assume that people are going to approach it the same way.

But by the same token, more than 60 percent of the population of this country live in a state that has either medical or recreational marijuana legal. That’s almost two-thirds of the people of this country living in a state that has some sort of legalized marijuana. To roll that back would be very difficult. And President Trump repeatedly said on the campaign that he thought that states were the right place and this was an experiment being done at the state level, and he wasn’t sure the federal government should get in and disrupt something that seemed to be moving forward.

I don’t think there’s much question the old system was a disaster. We sent hundreds of thousands — millions — on a nationwide basis, millions of kids to jail for non-violent crimes. We inducted them into a high probability of a lifetime of crime, strictly by sending them to prison for something that was a non-violent crime.

This new system, where we may not be completely sure of (whether) we’ve solved all the problems and that we’re going to be successful in this grand experiment, it does offer certain advantages to the status quo of the previous system. Now we have tax revenues.

Some people complain about the black market, “You’ve got this black market, this large black market. How do you address that?” Well, you know five years ago, it was a huge black market. Everything was black market, right? It was all illegal. Everything was being paid in cash and under the table. At least now we have some tax revenues that we can use to market to teenagers and make sure they understand that they could lose permanently a piece of their long-term memory.

Almost every brain doctor I’ve talked to feels there’s a very high probability — if your brain is still rapidly growing during your teenage years … there’s a high probability, it’s more than just risk, you’ll lose a sliver of your long-term memory every time you smoke this high-THC marijuana. Most kids don’t realize that. But we now have money we can advertise for that. We can provide more money to public safety to crack down on this gray market that turns into a black market. Each year we’re changing the regulatory structure to make it I think a little better.

Q: In terms of those changes, there are a couple of bills in this current session that you’ve said you’re not a big fan of — the marijuana delivery bill as well as the marijuana clubs bill. What are your biggest concerns about those respective pieces of legislation, and what fixes could be made, if any, to earn your signature?

Hickenlooper: The pot clubs, when the public voted on (Amendment 64), it was explicit in that initiative that it would not be for public consumption. So I’m just trying to defend the will of the voters in that.

In terms of delivery, that notion of having a delivery person go around house to house and dropping off potentially significant amounts of marijuana — any amount of marijuana — I think we look at that as just a hazard. And if we’re really serious about keeping marijuana out of the hands of teenagers, delivery service offers more opportunity for that marijuana to get into the hands of kids.

Q: And as they stand right now, would you veto them? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2017 at 11:37 am

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