John Hickenlooper on Drugs

Democratic Presidential Challenger (withdrew, Aug. 2019); CO Governor


Decriminalize marijuana at state level, but not federally

Legalizing marijuana is an issue that has seen a steady uptick in support over the years. Fifteen states have decriminalized marijuana while 10 others and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

In a CNN town hall in March, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said while he would not pursue legalization on a federal level, but that he believes the states should be allowed to move forward. "I would not ask the federal government to legalize it for everyone," Hickenlooper said. "But I think where states do legalize marijuana with the voters or through their general assembly, the federal government should get out of the way and allow them to get banking, allow them to look at systems by which you can have this experiment go on successfully."

Source: Denver CBS Local on 2020 Democratic presidential primary , May 16, 2019

As teen, grew his own marijuana before it was legal

One fun thing about John Hickenlooper:
Source: Axios.com on 2020 Democratic primary , Apr 22, 2019

Marijuana legalization works, but leave it to states

On marijuana legalization: I was opposed to it originally. We were worried about teenage consumption going up. We were worried about the risks of people driving while high. Most of our fears haven't come true. We haven't seen a spike in consumption. It's so much better than the old system when we sent millions of kids to prison, most of them kids of color, and not only imprisoned them, but made them felons, made already difficult lives much, much harder.

I would not ask the federal government to legalize it for everyone. But I think where states do the federal government should get out of the way and allow them to be able to get banking, which we can't legally get in Colorado, so everything is supposed to go by cash. My dream would be the federal government to make sure that the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration regulate whether pesticides are used, that we get all the legal barriers to doing medical research around marijuana [removed].

Source: CNN Town Hall: 2020 presidential hopefuls , Mar 20, 2019

Supports states permitting marijuana, not federal reform

Hickenlooper advocated for federal reforms to marijuana but said he does not advocate for blanket laws to legalize marijuana nationally. "I don't think the federal government should come in and tell every state it should be legalized." Hickenlooper, who originally opposed legalizing the drug in his state, said "the things I feared six years ago have not come to pass." "The federal government should reclassify marijuana so it's not a schedule I narcotic," Hickenlooper said. The former governor also argued for banking reforms so that businesses handling marijuana money "don't have to do everything in cash." However, he stopped short of fully endorsing a measure to legalize marijuana at the federal level and did not address calls to expunge the criminal records of those charged with possession.
Source: The Hill e-zine on 2020 Democratic primary , Mar 6, 2019

National model for marijuana legalization

We were the first state to legalize recreational marijuana while creating a roadmap for other states. By the way--we're not wild about Washington telling us what's best for us. We expect the federal government will respect the will of Colorado voters.
Source: 2018 State of the State address to the Colorado legislature , Jan 11, 2018

Voters passed legal pot, and I will uphold the voter's will

Q: Jeff Sessions as a senator was opposed to marijuana. Is Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney-General going to enforce federal law and shut down Colorado's recreational-use marijuana businesses?

HICKENLOOPER: You know, at first, I opposed it. But our voters passed it 55-45. It's in our constitution. I took a solemn oath to support our constitution. The states have sovereignty [on this issue].

Q: You don't think it's clear that the federal government could stop you?

HICKENLOOPER: I don't think it is. It's never my choice to be in conflict with federal law. That being said, Senator Sessions said [in his confirmation hearings], "Enforcement of marijuana is not going to be a priority." Over 60% of American people are now in a state where either medical or recreational marijuana is legalized. It's become one of the great social experiments of our time.

Q: If this were on a ballot today, would you support it?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I'm getting close.

Source: Meet the Press 2017 interview by Chuck Todd , Feb 26, 2017

First state to regulate legal sale of marijuana

[With the 2013 legislative session] We became the first state in the nation to pass laws to regulate the legal sale of marijuana. Every other regulated industry has benefited from years of trial and error, and could look to other states or even other countries for models of what has worked and what has not. That was not an option here.

The General Assembly agreed to a 15 percent excise tax to an initial 10 percent sales tax for recreational marijuana. For the sake of public safety, we set a legal limit of active THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, that drivers can have in their blood so that juries have a benchmark to judge whether someone was too high to drive. The Colorado Department of Revenue created an innovative seed-to-sale tracking system. The rules were written. Recreational sales of marijuana would begin on January 1, 2014.

Source: The Opposite of Woe, by John Hickenlooper, p.317 , May 24, 2016

1989: Arrested for drunk driving; did community service

In 1989, something not so great happened. On my way home from an employee's birthday party, I was arrested for drinking and driving. I didn't fight the charge of "driving while impaired." I did what I did and it was stupid and dangerous. I could have killed myself, or worse, someone else. I did my community service, but also changed the way the Wynkoop did business. We became the first restaurant in Colorado to offer a designated-driver program.
Source: The Opposite of Woe, by John Hickenlooper, p.183 , May 24, 2016

Regulatory regime to marijuana needs to be strengthened

Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana three years ago and we had to build a regulatory system from scratch. We should continue to look at lessons learned from alcohol and tobacco as we monitor and update marijuana regulations. Back in the day, candy cigarettes desensitized kids to the dangers of tobacco--and today, pot-infused gummy bears send the wrong message to our kids about marijuana.
Source: 2016 State of the State speech to Colorado legislature , Jan 14, 2016

Voters were "reckless" to legalize retail marijuana

Colorado voters were "reckless" for legalizing retail marijuana, Gov. John Hickenlooper said during a pair of debates marked by candidates who dealt with uneasy positions and pivots. "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?" he said during the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce debates. "I opposed it from the very beginning. Oh, what the hell, I'll say it was reckless."

The lunchtime debates between Hickenlooper and his gubernatorial challenger Bob Beauprez, and later Sen. Mark Udall and his Senate challenger Rep. Cory Gardner, were meant to focus on economic issues. The governor explained that he believed Coloradans lacked enough data about health effects in voting for retail pot, and suggested other states should take heed.

Source: Denver Post on 2014 Colorado Gubernatorial debate , Oct 6, 2014

Failed War on Drugs paved way for pot legalization

[On marijuana legalization]: "Let's face it, the War on Drugs was a disaster. It may be well intentioned but it sent millions of kids to prison, gave them felonies often times when they had no violent crimes. I was against this, but I can see why so many people supported it."
Source: The Atlantic, "Legalization," on 2020 presidential hopefuls , Jul 1, 2014

Now it's legal, but keep marijuana out of the reach of kids

Now it's legal, but keep marijuana out of the reach of kids Some other amendments passed in November... one on federal campaign finance reform... and another, for the life of me I can't remember the third one. Oh yeah, Amendment 64. [legalizing medical marijuana].

Now it's legal, but keep marijuana out of the reach of kids We need to expand our DUI law to keep our highways safe from those driving while impaired, and we must put in place consumer and

Source: 2013 Colorado State of the State address , Jan 10, 2013

Rated B- by NORML, indicating a pro-drug-reform stance.

Hickenlooper scores B- by the NORML on drug reform

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2016 NORML scores as follows:

About NORML (from their website, www.norml.org):

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.

NORML is a nonprofit, public-interest lobby that for more than 30 years has provided a voice for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition. We represent the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime.

NORML supports the removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession & responsible use of marijuana by adults, including the cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This model is called "decriminalization."

NORML additionally supports the development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could purchase it from a safe, legal and regulated source. This model is referred to as "legalization."

NORML believes that marijuana smoking is not for kids and should only be used responsibly by adults. As with alcohol consumption, it must never be an excuse for misconduct or other bad behavior. Driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.

NORML strongly supports the right of patients to use marijuana as a medicine when their physician recommends it to relieve pain and suffering.

Lastly, NORML supports the right of farmers to commercially cultivate hemp for industrial purposes, such as food and fiber production.

Source: NORML website 16_NORML on Nov 8, 2016

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Page last updated: Dec 15, 2019