As a U.S. senator, John Hickenlooper could be the hero this industry thought he was eight years ago as governor of the first state to legalize recreational cannabis.
As he coordinates the platform for his senate run to unseat Republican incumbent Cory Gardner, it’s a good time to revisit former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s stance on cannabis.
That may be easier said than done. He’s been up, and he’s been down.
The up? After eight tries, advocates finally convinced the Colorado Legislative Council to put the initiative to legalize recreational cannabis on the 2012 ballot. Suddenly Hickenlooper was governor of a state’s social experiment to legalize a substance for recreational use that the Drug Enforcement Administration claimed was as bad as heroin. He seemed to be the people’s champion. He was in the crosshairs of an annoyed U.S. Department of Justice that held the cannabis industry in contempt. But he didn’t blink.
The down? In September, 2012, out of the blue and just two months before the November votes legalizing recreational cannabis in Colorado, he sounded the alarm to the citizenry about what a bad idea legalizing recreational cannabis would be.
What was that all about? No one really knows.
To the voters of Colorado, it looked likely that Hickenlooper would support cannabis all along, given his background as a banjo-playing brewpub owner and restauranteur who helped develop downtown Denver’s nightlife district. Surely legalizing cannabis would be an easy and logical next step for a guy who knew what people wanted when they were looking for a good time.
But Hickenlooper was apparently no fan of the voter-approved Amendment 64, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2012. “Colorado is known for many great things —marijuana should not be one of them,” he said in a public statement. “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.”
Cue “The Twilight Zone” music.
Time has proven how out of step that statement was for the majority of citizens who approved the amendment, and the state coffers that continue to benefit from record sales of legalized cannabis.