After Opposing Legalized Marijuana Last Year, Here's What Colorado's Governor Says Today

After Opposing Legalized Marijuana Last Year, Here's What Colorado's Governor Says Today

Talk about changing a tune: While Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has never been a huge fan of his state's legalization of marijuana, it appears that he has changed his mind recently — especially as the state coffers fill up from tax revenue and most of his worst fears about pot continue to seem unfounded.

Hickenlooper has been on a publicity tour of sorts as media outlets continue to tout Colorado's apparent success in implementing a legal, taxable marijuana industry. And though the governor is still cautious about championing recreational weed, he has admitted that "some of the anxiety has been laid to rest."

"It seems like the people that were smoking before are mainly the people that are smoking now," Hickenlooper told Reuters. "If that's the case, what that means is that we're not going to have more drugged driving, or driving while high. We're not going to have some of those problems. But we are going to have a system where we're actually regulating and taxing something, and keeping that money in the state of Colorado … and we're not supporting a corrupt system of gangsters."

This is a big change for the governor. Hickenlooper might now refer to Colorado's weed legalization as "one of the great social experiments of the 21st century, " but he hasn't always been so receptive to the idea. Here are some choice quotes from him in recent years:

September 2012: "Colorado is known for many great things –- marijuana should not be one of them. Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are OK."

May 2013: "Whether it’s good for the brand of our state is still up in the air. But the voters passed Amendment 64 by a clear majority. That's why we're going to implement it as effectively as we possibly can."

February 2014: Marijuana "doesn't make people smarter, doesn't make people healthier ... I don't think governors should be [in] the position of promoting things that are inherently not good for people."

Why Hickenlooper might have changed his mind: Despite the governor's concerns about legalization, he admits now that his worries have not come true: there isn't a sudden spike in pot use among adults or children, there hasn't been a lot of trafficking to other states and the black market has not exploded — if anything, it seems to have taken a hit.

Violent crime is down in Denver:


Image Credit: Vox

While the money keeps rolling in:


Image Credit: Vox

Hickenlooper has noted that he is still worried about the effect that pot has on developing brains. But for now, he seems more bent on working out practical concerns, such as regulating edible marijuana and allowing dispensaries to put their money in banks.

It's clear that the road to legalization is still a bumpy one, as Washington's rollout demonstrates. But that is precisely why states are serving as test cases to see how American can handle legal weed — and it looks like Hickenlooper is finally accepting the fact that all signs point to Colorado's success.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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