Colorado Governor to Voters: Legalizing Marijuana Was 'Reckless'


Photo credit: World Economic Forum / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat currently in the midst of a close reelection campaign, doesn't think voters in his state were being responsible when they voted to legalize marijuana.

In a debate with his Republican opponent Bob Beauprez yesterday, Hickenlooper said that voters in his state were "reckless" when they voted to allow recreational pot use, according to the International Business Times, and that he still doesn't believe that the legalization measure should have passed.

"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," he said. "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."

He also argued that governors in other states should be wary before proceeding down the path to legalization. 

"Any governor that looks at doing this before we see what the consequences are, I would view it as reckless," he said. 

The IBT summarizes some of the "consequences" the state has seen:

Since the new law took effect in 2014, the state is on track to raise more than $40 million in new annual revenues for education and other priorities from marijuana-related taxes. There has been little evidence that crime rates or driving fatalities have increased since the law took effect. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: Violent crime rates in Denver were lower in the first half of 2014, and traffic fatalities in the state are near a record low.

That doesn't even account for the tens of millions of dollars in estimated annual savings for law enforcement spending, nor the reduction in human costs that comes with abandoning criminal penalties for marijuana use. 

Based on the outcomes so far, one might be better off arguing that it would be reckless to oppose legalization. 

As Jacob Sullum noted earlier this summer, even Hickenlooper seems to have recognized that he was overly worried about how legalization would work out, admitting that his concerns about radically expanded pot usage and driving while high have not come to pass.

Recognizing that he misjudged the effects of legalization does not appear to have meaningfully changed his judgment about whether legalization should have occurred, however. Instead, he appears to have decided that it's better to tell the state's voters—the same voters he presumably hopes will cast their ballots for him next month—how misguided they were.