Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed legalization when it appeared on the ballot in 2012. Ever since, however, he has promised to honor the wishes of voters and uphold the law they passed.
That doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind about the wisdom of marijuana reform, apparently. During a gubernatorial debate Oct. 6, the Democratic governor said it would be “reckless” for other states to follow the lead of his own.
“I would view it as reckless before we see what the consequences are,” Hickenlooper said during the debate against his GOP challenger, Bob Beauprez. “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.”
Beauprez agreed with Hickenlooper’s assessment.
The governor tried to dance around his own comments for a few minutes, insisting he hadn’t said what he had just said, only to give up and acknowledge that he thinks legalization was reckless in Colorado, too.
“I’m not saying it was reckless, because I’ll get quoted everywhere,” he said. “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.”
Hickenlooper may simply have been trying to outscore his opponent on a red meat conservative issue. The governor’s public positions have generally been supportive of reform since it took effect.
But the comments aren’t helpful. Voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington, D.C., will vote on legalization in early November. Indications suggest the ballot initiative will pass in all three places, while at least a few cities in Michigan are also likely to pass reform.
After the debate, Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, Kathy Green, tried to walk back some of his remarks.
“In the face of inaction from the federal government, Colorado voters had no choice but to act on their own,” Green said. “While the governor believes it was reckless for Colorado to be the first state to violate federal drug laws, it is clear that Colorado voters saw no other choice – and we are committed to carrying out their will, as democracy demands.”
Hickenlooper fought Colorado’s legalization initiative in 2012, though not with much zeal. Once it took effect, he said he wouldn’t interfere and would carry out the new law.
He isn’t the only governor to argue that Colorado shouldn’t have legalized. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has repeatedly pointed to Colorado as proof the state is an ungovernable nightmare thanks to legal weed.
Polls say otherwise. Though support has dropped in the months since the first pot shops opened, more people continue to back the law than oppose it. Some polls suggest most Coloradans still favor legalization.