International Cannabis Business Conference

Hickenlooper Does Damage Control, But Is the Damage Already Done?

Gov. Hickenlooper toast beers with Pres. Obama, yet somehow he contends his state’s marijuana policy is reckless.

You'd figure Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper would know by now not to alienate stoners, but he did it again this week, saying about his state's legalization of marijuana, "I opposed it from the beginning. It was reckless."

Democrat Hickenlooper is in a battle for his political life against  Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. Polling shows the race is a dead heat.

Here's Hickenlooper response to a question about marijuana legalization in Colorado during the debate on Oct. 6:

'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. All right, what the hell - I'll say it was reckless.'

Afer taking heat for this statement, the Gov further explained:

"Perhaps risky is a better word. While I believe it was risky for Colorado to be the first state to step away from a failed federal policy given all of the unanswered legal questions and implications, the adoption of Amendment 64 by Colorado voters sent a clear message to the federal government that marijuana should be legal and regulated. Is it risky now? It is certainly less so. We have a robust regulatory enforcement system that would not have been possible without the partnership of the marijuana business owners, activists, law enforcement officials, regulators, parents, policy experts and stakeholders. Together we have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe and fair system that protects the public health, diminishes the underground market, and educates and keeps marijuana out of the hands of our children."

NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre questions the wisdom of Hickenlooper's comments"He's been almost spineless on this topic. I can't believe a smart politician would say to people that they were reckless - which might be a code term for dumb - but 'now I want you to vote for me.' That's a very strange dynamic to set up politically. Hickenlooper is a very smart, aspiring, ascending politician. But on this issue, he's got a very blind side."

During a follow-up debate on Oct. 9, Beauprez called for the repeal of Amendment 64, while Hickenlooper opined, "I’m not going to go as far as to say we should lead an effort to make it illegal. I think that that would be premature."

Despite his reservations, Hickenlopper has received financial support from the legal cannabis industry. In August, Tripp Keber of Dixie Elixirs and Edibles threw a fundraiser that collected $40,000 for the Gov's re-election campaign.

Ladybud reports that Paul Kuhn, one of NORML's board members, was contacted directly by Hickenlooper in June when he sought out-of-state support during a visit to Nashville. Kuhn tells CelebStoner he made a $250 donation.

Allen St. Pierre on Hickenlooper: 'He's trying to have it both ways. Behind the scenes, he's a legalizer with a capital L. But when he's in public, he speaks about recklessness and Cheetos.'

Here are a few more statements Hickenlooper has made about marijuana over the last few years:

• "Colorado is known for many great things - marijuana should not be one of them."

• "I hate Colorado having to be the experiment. We are going to regulate the daylights out of it."

• "This is going to be one of the great social experiments of the 21st century. But going out and getting tax revenue is absolutely the wrong reason to even think about legalizing recreational marijuana."

• "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."

Before he became governor in 2011, Hickenlooper co-founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company brewpub in Denver. In July, he shared beers and played pool with Pres. Obama at the brewery and on Oct. 4 attended the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where he tweeted, "With my people..."

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.