In his widest-ranging interview yet (see clip below) about the state of marijuana in Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed all the pertinent questions during a sit-down with Katie Couric on July 1 at the Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.
Here's a breakdown of the governor's answers in 11 categories:
How's Colorado Doing, Post-Legalization
Some of the anxiety has been laid to rest. We don't see a giant increase in adult consumption. We don't think we see a spike in youth consumption. Still, there's a lot more that we don't know about this than we do… We're not saying it's an easy journey… The word "overwhelming success" is not something I'm going to apply to this… It could've been a lot worse. We've made mistakes, we've had problems. We've tried to learn from them and aggressively address how to rectify the problems, such as edibles… Am I satisfied? No. We've got to do better.
Whither the Black Market?
The black market certainly is not over, but it has been damaged… Our goal is to be a little bit more expensive than the black market, but roughly the same. If that's the case, we think people will choose to do it legally and eventually the black market will dry up.
The Tax High
I think we're going to have first year probably $60-$80 million… We have the ability to lower the taxes if we see there's a black market forming. Right now we're trying to pay as close attention as we can to make sure we're not overtaxing.
The Edibles Controversy
The dramatic increase in edible marijuana is something that happened faster and bigger. No one had ever worried about dosage size… You talk about alarming parents and elected officials, that's one good way to do it. That part of it, the jury's still out.
If someone's driving erratically, we need to know why. We're going to have zero tolerance for this… We are seeing what appears to be an increase. It's probably not as significant as what most people would think.
Gov. Hickenlooper: 'I was against this, but I can understand why so many people supported it. This is one of the great social experiments of this century to see whether this can be done.'
Kids and Pot
Kids are definitely our highest concern. Everyone we've talked to thinks that this is a completely different risk than some kid going out and drinking beer… Obviously not every kid who smokes marijuana becomes addicted… But I think there's enough medical indication that there's a risk, that we should communicate that risk.
The Banking Issue
If you really want to encourage corruption, make sure it's an cash business… Somehow we have to allow for a credit union.
Governor, Do You Partake?
No… One of my staff was teasing me and said, We don't need any help trying to make ourselves stupid. When you're a kid , when you're young, you want to relax and you don't mind making yourself a little dumb, right? As you get older, that becomes more of a problem.
How It All Happened
The reason we have legalization here in Colorado is because we've had this incredible, over this last decade, influx of young people. When I was a kid everybody wanted to go live in California. For the last six or eight or 10 years Colorado has been affordable and has all these young people moving in. That's the only way I can explain why got it passed so much ahead of everyone.
Whither Medical Marijuana?
We're pretty sure that a lot of people are still using medical marijuana that probably don't have a medical need. It's difficult to police.
The War on Drugs
Let's face it, the War on Drugs was a disaster. It may have been well intentioned and certainly it may have helped depress some of the activity around marijuana and other drugs, but it sent millions of kids to prison, gave them felonies oftentimes when they had no violent crime and made it much more difficult to get jobs... We shouldn't necessarily lock people up for selling marijuana, as we have for so many years. Or lock people up even for using marijuana. But we don't have to encourage it.