Colorado Gov.’s Cannabis Go-Around Could Come-Around Big Time

By David Hodes, The Fresh Toast on

Published in Cannabis Daily

Total revenue for the state has reached $200 million so far in 2020; total sales today, beginning from 2014, is just over $9 billion. That sort of resounding economic success is a calling card for any governor seeking higher office.

But Hickenlooper has hopped and skipped his way in and around the state’s cannabis economic success story as late as the middle of last year.

For example, in 2019, during his last full term as governor and a year in which Colorado marked $1.5 billion in cannabis sales, Hickenlooper actually vetoed three cannabis-related bills: On June 4th, he vetoed HB18-1258, to allow cannabis consumption rooms; on June 5th, he vetoed HB19-1028 adding autism to conditions covered by medical cannabis (a revised version was one of the first bills Governor Jared Polis signed into law when he took office in January, 2020); also on June 5th, he vetoed HB18-1011, to allow greater investment flexibility in cannabis businesses.

Those veto moves may have come as a sort of prerequisite for Hickenlooper’s plan to run for president in 2020, which he announced on March 4, 2019, when he joined a field of 22 other contenders — maybe he didn’t want to seem to be leaning too much to the left on what many Democrats running for office still consider a contentious issue. But then he bragged about his cannabis legalization work during the presidential debates on July 1.

In his debate summary on July 30, 2019, in Detroit, he said “I’m as progressive as anybody on this stage, but I’m also pragmatic. And I’ve done the things that most of these other people are just talking about.”

Hmm…a veiled reference to his work in cannabis? Maybe. On August 15, 2019, he dropped out of the presidential race. A week later, he announced his run for U.S. senate.

Then on June 30 this year, after a shaky start, he won the Democratic senate primary and is set to go for the November elections.

But so far, he’s been mum on his position about cannabis.

Let’s consider some ifs.


If he wins the senate seat…and if Joe Biden and cannabis-legalization leader Kamala Harris win…and if Hickenlooper’s winning a senate seat helps change the balance of Democratic power in the Senate, which has always been where cannabis legalization bills go to die at the hands of a Republican majority…and if the issues about the pandemic are addressed to include fixing the economy and solving race issues related to the war on drugs, where cannabis legalization lives…then maybe Hickenlooper would find himself speaking out about his state’s wonderful and rosy cannabis past (and present, and future) and put himself and Colorado right in the center of the legalizing cannabis discussion across the country as a case study in what goes right in the cannabis industry.

He said last year during his presidential run that if he became president, he would sign a bill to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level.

That’s encouraging news. But a senator doesn’t have the same power as president.

As a U.S. senator, Hickenlooper could be the hero this industry thought he was eight years ago as governor of the first state to legalize recreational cannabis. He could make a more enduring history as a U.S. senator to work with a new president and new vice president on an important issue Congress has tossed around and bullied for years. He could be the catalyst of a vote or a bill that would instantly change the lives of millions, and help the cannabis industry finally overcome all those dumb obstacles that a federally scheduled drug has to deal with.

If he did all those things, the cannabis industry could finally ride the winds of destiny to sail on into the money-making hinterlands of a stronger American economy it helped make, without a fear of blowback.

Hickenlooper could be a big part of that. If only…

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