Hickenlooper Almost Had a Point About Colorado's 'Reckless' Pot Legalization

Trouble is, Colorado's implementation of the law has gone pretty smoothly.

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Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty

What would Governor John Hickenlooper tell other governors whose states may follow Colorado's lead and legalize recreational marijuana? We're pretty sure he would call it “reckless.”

“Any governor that looks at doing this before we see what the consequences are, I would view it as reckless,” he said during a debate Monday, according to the International Business Times.

Asked if Colorado voters were reckless when they voted for it two years ago, he gave the following answer: “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.”

At least one marijuana advocate has noted the irony of the governor criticizing a policy that was more popular than his gubernatorial campaign. “It's odd that someone elected by 51 percent of the voters would criticize 55 percent of the voters for approving a ballot measure,” Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project said during a phone interview, adding that voters might consider electing him reckless. Hickenlooper is in a tight re-election race against Republican Bob Beauprez, who also opposes legalization.

There's also the fact that Hickenlooper is “a former brewer and a seller of a drug far more dangerous than marijuana," Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the marijuana advocacy group NORML, told Denver's Westword. In July he and President Obama posed for photos holding beers in a Colorado bar.

“I opened the first brewpub in the Rocky Mountains, back in 1988,” Hickenlooper said in June. The difference, he argued, is that alcohol is heavily regulated. “We had to go through so many hoops to get a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms license to brew beer,” the governor continued. “We should be no less rigorous with the marijuana industry, and we’re going to be.”

In that sense, he almost has a point.  Colorado has had to reconsider how marijuana-laced edibles are packaged and regulated. The Marijuana Policy Project began an ad campaign last month, featuring a billboard alluding to Maureen Dowd's bad trip, encouraging users to consume edibles responsibly and understand that edibles can be very potent. A week later the state introduced new regulations on the packaging of edibles to make sure customers know how much THC they're consuming. Going forward, states will benefit from that knowledge.

The problem with Hickenlooper's recklessness claim is that Colorado has actually done a good job regulating marijuana, making millions of dollars in the process. A July Brookings Institute report noted that the state needed to address the inconsistent THC levels in edibles but said the implementation of legalization was “largely successful.” And activists argue that just because other states haven't passed a law doesn't mean it's dangerous.

"The goal of Colorado voters was to end prohibition,” Tvert said. Hickenlooper doesn't believe the legalization of alcohol is reckless, and “it's irrational for him to not think the same about a less harmful substance like marijuana.”

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