Colorado governor urges other states to ‘be cautious’ about pot legalization

February 21, 2014

Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) has some advice for other governors about legalization of the recreational use of marijuana. Be cautious and go slow.

"When governors have asked me, and several have, I say that we don't have the facts," Hickenlooper said at a lunch with reporters Friday as the National Governors Association met in Washington, D.C. "We don't know what the unintended consequences are going to be and we're going to regulate it every way we can. What I do is urge caution. Make sure you look at it very thoroughly."

Colorado is the first state to begin sales of marijuana for recreational use and the first reports back show that the revenues produced for the state were higher than estimated. Hickenlooper, who opposed the initiative that was approved by Colorado voters, said pursuit of revenue should not be a factor in any state's decision to move ahead to legalize the drug.

Arguing that the war on drugs had been a major failure, "a disaster," Hickenlooper said of legalization of marijuana, "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."

Marijuana, he said, "doesn't make people smarter, doesn't make people healthier," and puts young people especially at risk. He said the state would use the first $40 million in revenue from the sales of the drug for school construction, but after that the money will be used to study the effects and protect young people who may be harmed by the use of marijuana.

"We're going to not use this as a source of revenue to help education or expanding health care," he said. "We're going to use it in health care where it will relate to marijuana activity … I don't think governors should be the position of promoting things that are inherently not good for people."

Hickenlooper said he has talked regularly, as recently as Friday, with Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash), whose state is next to begin sales of marijuana. Half a dozen governors, he said, have inquired about Colorado's program. He said that some of those governors had indicated "that this was a wave in their state that was going to come."

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.
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