After the 2012 election, which saw Colorado become the first state to legalize marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said he probably would have reversed the vote if he had a magic wand.
But with the perspective of a few years post-legalization, today he says he’d put that wand “back in the drawer.”
“I’m not quite there to say this is a great success, but the old system was awful,” Hickenlooper said at a forum hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday.
What’s more, “the things that we most feared—a spike in teenage consumption, a spike in overall consumption, people driving while high—we haven’t seen them,” he said.
“We had a little increase in teenage consumption, but then it went down. We do think that some of the teenage consumers are using it a little more frequently than they were five years ago before legalization. We have in many ways seen no demographic where there’s an increase in consumption, with one exception: senior citizens. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.”
Hickenlooper, who’s been floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, described the challenges his administration faced when Colorado voters approved an adult-use legalization measure. Elected officials and advisors were opposed to it, he said, and plus, “it’s no fun to be in conflict with federal law.”
But he pushed forward with implementation, recruiting the “smartest people” he could find to figure out the best approach to regulation and taxation. And Illinois, which recently elected pro-legalization J.B. Pritzker for governor, will likely be better off if they pursue reform because they can learn from the successes and failures of Colorado’s system, Hickenlooper said.
“Ultimately, I haven’t come to a final conclusion yet, but I think it’s looking like this is going to be—for all of the flaws and challenges we have—a better system than what we had. You guys are going to benefit, I think, having let us make a bunch of the mistakes and deal with it, I think you’re going to be able to have a much better system if indeed that is the direction that the state wants to go.”
Asked what advice he’d give to Pritzker if Illinois does elect to fully legalize cannabis, Hickenlooper offered three tips: 1) don’t overtax marijuana, or else the illicit marketplace will persist, 2) get data from law enforcement on the presence of cannabis metabolites in the blood after highway fatalities to establish “good baselines” for comparison and 3) set limits on THC concentrations in edibles.
“What they’re selling now, they tell me it’s 10-to-12 times more intense than what allegedly I smoked in high school,” Hickenlooper said, pausing before conceding, “I smoked pot in high school and I inhaled, but it was a fraction of the intensity of what these kids are getting now.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who is running to be Colorado’s next governor, is calling out the incumbent over his decision to veto three pieces of marijuana legislation, including one bill that would have extended cannabis access to individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) struck down two other bills this week: one that would have allowed for increased investment in the state’s marijuana industry and another that would’ve allowed consumers to sample cannabis products at licensed dispensaries.
Because the legislative session ended last month, the Colorado General Assembly can’t override the vetoes. So it’ll be up to the next governor to bring the legislation back to life.
Polis, who is running for the seat and received an endorsement from NORML last month, hopes to do just that.
“If I have the opportunity to be governor of Colorado, I would sign this bill increasing access for medical marijuana to those on the autism spectrum, enabling investments in legal cannabis businesses that help reduce costs for consumers and create jobs,” Polis told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview.
“I think it’s commonsense.”
The congressman said that, beyond supporting state-level legislative efforts to improve Colorado’s marijuana program, he’d also resist the federal government should it attempt to interfere in the state’s legal system.
“I would make sure that we would not cooperate from the state-level and that state law enforcement resources were not used and information was not shared with any federal agent going after a legal, constitutionally protected Colorado activity.”
President Donald Trump reportedly voiced his support for federal legislation to protect states that legalize cannabis from federal interference in a conversation with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Thursday.
But when it comes to the 2020 election, Polis said he hoped “we would have a forward-looking candidate for president that supports what the overwhelming majority of Colorado voters and American voters support, which is regulating marijuana more like alcohol, rather than continuing the failed drug war against marijuana.”
Following backlash from marijuana reform advocates over his veto of the autism medical marijuana bill, Hickenlooper directed his lieutenant governor to sign an executive order that called for research into the “safety and efficacy of medical marijuana for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children,” according to a press release.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
The past week has been a huge success for the legal cannabis industry. A provision in the renewed budget bill (Rohrabacher-Farr amendment) will continue to protect states with medical cannabis laws from federal intervention – at least for now.
The bill, which will likely pass this week, is only valid until the end of September.
For US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has a dark reputation for his conservative, traditional beliefs surrounding cannabis, this means that his efforts to kneecap the establishment of medical cannabis in the country has been derailed. Without funding from Congress, his ability to enforce his strict views is severely limited.
Sessions isn’t going down without a fight, as his focus now shifts to states with fully legal cannabis laws. Unfortunately, the amendment only covers legal cannabis on a medicinal level, leaving states with recreational laws in limbo.
Should the Attorney General move forward with his plans, which are still very nascent and vague, retail cannabis stores based in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada and California, could be targeted and badly affected.
Should business owners who are deeply invested in the emerging industry be worried about Session’s statements surrounding recreational cannabis? According to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), the answer could be no.
Governor Hickenlooper reveals more
In a recent interview with Cheddar Founder and CEO Jon Steinberg (previously President and COO of BuzzFeed), the Governor provided a glimpse of his recent meeting with Sessions.
“I’m not going to do anything that in any way encourages someone to open a marijuana sales store or a marijuana grow. You’re not going to hear me say a word that will encourage anyone in any way. That being said, we’ve got higher priorities. We don’t have unlimited resources,”
reported Gov. Hickenlooper when asked what the Attorney General said during the meeting.
The “higher priorities” Sessions was referring to includes hard drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. During the meeting, he failed to clarify his stance on alcohol abuse, which is responsible for roughly 88,000 deaths per year..
To reassure active participants in the recreational cannabis sector, Gov. Hickenlooper provided his own take away from the meeting:
“He [Sessions] was basically saying that the people in this industry better be clean; if they have a problem with the local government, who knows what the federal government will do. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he closed somebody down every now and then to make a statement, but it’s not his highest priority.”
His two-step insight is key to avoiding Session’s wrath over the industry. As long as businesses closely adhere to local cannabis laws that are designed to protect them, they should be able to avoid run-ins with the feds.
As for the second part of Gov. Hickenlooper’s takeaway, it seems to be a warning as to what could potentially happen to groups who don’t follow state guidelines surrounding legal cannabis. Since it’s not the Attorney General’s “highest priority” (and due to lack of funding), it is very unlikely that he will go out of his way to disassemble law-abiding businesses.
With the new government in place, many policy items have been left up in the air. From healthcare to immigration, every policy directive from previous administrations have been up for review, with marijuana legalization being one of them.
Early on, it was reported that Colorado’s marijuana policy would be reviewed, and there was the possibility of federal crackdowns. Now, however, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says he doesn’t think a crackdown is coming, and both the cannabis industry and its fan should take note of this development.
A recent meeting in Washington between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Governor John Hickenlooper suggests that a federal crackdown will not be occurring any time soon…if it occurs at all. According to Hickenlooper’s chief of staff, Doug Friednash, the hour-long conversation Sessions and Hickenlooper was mainly revolved around discussing Colorado’s cannabis laws, as well as the threat of federal intervention. However, Friednash stated that the meeting went extremely well, and described it as “amicable.”
“I’m not going to do anything that in any way encourages someone to open a marijuana sales store or a marijuana grow. You’re not going to hear me say a word that will encourage anyone in any way. That being said, we’ve got higher priorities. We don’t have unlimited resources.”
Friednash further stated that the main takeaway from this meeting were understanding the priorities of the current attorney general. It seems as though Sessions is currently far more fixated on other policy issues, such as immigration, and securing the border with a wall rather than disrupting the legal cannabis marketplace.
During the meeting, Hickenlooper provided an overview of the Colorado marijuana marketplace. Noting that he was initially working against legalization, Hickenlooper emphasized that Colorado lawmakers and regulators have implemented a good system that is only getting better. The governor also noted since legalization, there has not been a rise in teenager user of the drug. Emergency room visits have seen a decrease, and regulatory laws regarding edibles have made the latter much safer. Hickenlooper also discussed the state’s initiative to tighten loopholes that have seen large amounts of marijuana entering states where it has not been legalized.
However, Sessions did note that his office was reviewing a directive, also known as the Cole memo that originated during the Obama administration. The Cole memo centers around feds allowing states with legalized marijuana to operate “without undue interference.” Sessions stated during the meeting that he found the Cole
memo “not too far from good policy.”
This has great implications down the line, and comes as welcome news. Both Hickenlooper and Sessions were correct in reaching out to another, and establishing a line of communication. Substantive policy decisions centered around marijuana policy seemed like looming threats earlier, but that seems to have diminished as the administration ponders different issues.
Politics remain somewhat unpredictable though, and there is always a chance that the tide could shift. Trump, and his administration are known for shifting stances easily, and perhaps marijuana policy will become a focal point again. The administration has consistently put forward mixed messages in this regard, with Trump stating during the campaign trail that states would be left alone. The medical market is at least protected through the most recent budget deal approved by Congress, and as a result Sessions is left without funding to attack legal medical businesses. However, White House spokesman Sean Spicer has said that there would be greater enforcement on recreational sales.
Medical market protection
Hickenlooper argued against Sean Spicer’s statement though, stating that crackdowns on recreational marijuana would not lead to any real progress. In fact, Hickenlooper argued, medicinal marijuana usage would see huge spikes as recreational owners would switch over. And it has become obvious over the years that there is a large number of doctors willing to provide that prescription.
Friednash also argued against Sean Spicer’s position, stating, “You would just be trading one problem for another,” and also added that a policy change such as that would lead to more gray- and black-market conditions.
Ultimately, the most important point to note out of this is that the governor and attorney general ended the meeting on a very positive note. Both agreed to share information that would aid in federal decision-making. As the Denver Post editorial puts it, “the substance of the meeting in and of itself should comfort those worried about the chaos that would result if the feds decided to crash the Colorado experiment.”
On Thursday, April 6, 2017, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed SB17-178 into law. The bill seeks to impede the Colorado courts from imposing orders on criminal defendants, which would force them to abstain from the medical use of marijuana, as a condition of their bond while they are awaiting trial.
Typically, criminal defendants are subject to more severe penalties such as additional charges or bond revocation, for using cannabis while awaiting trial, regardless of whether the use is pursuant to a valid prescription. This is largely due to the fact that cannabis is still classified as a narcotic by the federal government and most states, and as a result it has an enormous negative stigma attached.
However, those days are in the past, and a user of medicinal marijuana with a valid card in Colorado, no longer has to choose between ignoring the health condition that prompted their lawful use of cannabis, in order to keep from violating their bond, or treating the illness at the risk of going to jail.
With public opinion seemingly shifting towards the acceptance of the medicinal qualities that cannabis can offer suffering patients, states like Delaware, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Vermont, and Missouri, are all expected to entertain discussions in their 2017 legislative sessions, geared towards legalization, either via a medical license, or a recreational status legalization. This bill is just one example of the State of Colorado continuing to blaze the path towards reasonability.
Because Colorado was the torch bearer for the shift in public opinion, the legislators are a few years ahead of the game in dealing with ancillary issues that come along with cannabis’ legalization. One of the most prevalent arguments by the opposition to cannabis’ legalization is that, due to the ease with which it can be grown and cultivated, enforcement of laws against black and gray market growers and sellers, is challenging to say the least. Again, Colorado has an answer with HB17-1221.
This bill creates an enforcement grant program with an initial allocation budget of nearly six million dollars, to be used to reimburse local governments for their efforts in utilizing law enforcement resources to investigate and charge black and gray market sellers and cultivators.
Additionally, SB17-015 tackles the ever evasive advertising market for cannabis, by making it a level two drug misdemeanor for anyone who is not licensed to do so, or a primary caregiver of a person with a valid cannabis prescription, to advertise for the sale or distribution of marijuana on the internet or elsewhere.
With the world taking notice, Colorado has improved the state all around, simply by accepting both the medicinal and economic power of cannabis. The lives of patients across the state, citizens who enjoy recreational cannabis, as well as the budgetary ambitions of the state legislature, have all been enriched with a little healthy debate, and the stroke of the pen. It may be a surprise to some, but the world didn’t actually end; it got better. As is the case with any new program implementation, issue have arisen, and Colorado has taken reasonable steps to combat them as they do, while still exploring the seemingly endless positive dimensions of cannabis.
This plant has so much potential to completely reshape the mental health community as we know it, as well as the chronic pain management industry, which causes so much physical addiction and pain to families around the world.
With any luck, and a little more healthy debate from all facets of the political spectrum, marijuana will be accessible for the benefit of patients, enthusiasts, and budgets across the country, and the federal government will abandon its effort to wage a war on one of the miraculous and healing plants ever discovered.
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