Colorado Governor Concedes Legal Marijuana Hasn't Turned His State Into a Stoner Hellscape

Five years after opposing Amendment 64, Gov. Hickenlooper says things are going pretty well with Colorado's legal pot experiment.


Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper didn't want his residents to approve 2012's ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana. But in a lengthy interview with The Denver Post's Alicia Wallace, the craft beer-brewing governor says the "worst nightmares" of legalization opponents "haven't materialized."

"We haven't seen a spike in teenage use," Hickenlooper told Wallace. "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."

Hickenlooper remains skeptical of his state's success in taxing and regulating marijuana–he's told other governors curious about legalizing marijuana, "I think they should still wait a year or two, maybe three years"–but he also appears committed to pushing back against any crackdown on legal weed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Justice Department:

Q: Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has invited Sessions to visit Colorado for a first-hand look at how the system operates here. If that were to happen, what would you say to him? What would you show him?

Hickenlooper: I think I would make the argument to Attorney General Sessions that I'd tell him, I opposed it. I thought this was too risky of an idea. No state wants to be in conflict with federal law, but our state passed this 55-45, our state supports it by more than 60-40 now. … I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of Colorado and I have an obligation to do everything I can to try and make this thing work.

Not exactly an emphatic defense of Colorado's sovereignty, is it?

Hickenlooper also suggests to Wallace that he might veto two pending bills in the state legislature. One would legalize home delivery of marijuana products and the other would legalize the operation of membership-only clubs where people can publicly consume marijuana. His argument against the former is that delivery services may lead to underage consumption; his argument against the latter is that Amendment 64 was sold on the promise no one could consume in public, "[s]o I'm just trying to defend the will of the voters in that."

But if teenage use hasn't increased with legal pot retailing at $30 an ounce(!), I'd be curious to know exactly how couriers will dramatically alter the landscape. It's also a bit odd to see Hickenlooper crow about the tax revenue from legal pot while denying out-of-state pot tourists a safe and legal place to consume their purchases. If consumers cannot legally consume marijuana in public or in their hotel rooms, and they also can't join private clubs, are they supposed to pack it into their luggage and board a plane? Drive it across state lines? Head out to a federal park? None of those things are legal. And if Amendment 64 voters see the legalization of members-only pot clubs as a betrayal, they can vote in legislators to reverse it.

Here's ReasonTV on Denver's pot club crackdown, and why it's a violation of free association: