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Colorado governor who opposed legalizing pot now says it's going fine

Governor John Hickenlooper at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Governor John Hickenlooper at the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
MClatchy-Tribune via Getty Images

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says marijuana legalization is going fine, even as he continues opposing the policy.

In an interview with Reuters, the governor said marijuana legalization hasn't led to more use among youth and espoused the benefits of bringing the marijuana market to the legal side.

"It seems like the people that were smoking before are mainly the people that are smoking now," Hickenlooper said. "If that's the case, what that means is that we're not going to have more drugged driving, or driving while high. We're not going to have some of those problems. But we are going to have a system where we're actually regulating and taxing something, and keeping that money in the state of Colorado, … and we're not supporting a corrupt system of gangsters."

Hickenlooper cautioned that he still thinks it wasn't a good idea for Colorado to become the first state to legalize pot. But his statements six months into Colorado's experiment represent a bit of a tone shift for the governor, who discouraged voters from supporting the initiative that legalized marijuana in 2012.

"Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them," Hickenlooper said in a 2012 statement. "Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are okay."

It's easy to understand why even an opponent like the governor is saying good things about legalization. There are still concerns about marijuana edibles, but the doom and gloom professed by opponents prior to legalization is nowhere to be found. Six months after retail sales began in the state, crime appears to be down and revenues are trending up.

Violent and property crimes are down in Denver

Violent and property crimes are down in Denver, where most of the state's pot shops reside, compared to the previous year.


This goes against a major talking point of opponents of legalization, particularly law enforcement. Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, for instance, claimed robbers would prey on marijuana businesses and their customers, because they tend to carry cash and the drug. He even made highly disputed claims about double-execution-style homicides.

Revenues from pot sales are trending up

Each month since legalization, revenues from retail marijuana sales have trended up.


Some of this is reflective of more stores opening their doors, which will continue as more cities and counties approve retail stores within their borders.

For the state, that means a lot more tax revenue. By voter rule, $40 million of the revenue raised through the excise tax must go to public schools. The Colorado Department of Revenue estimates that about $1.9 million of the $40 million has been raised so far, and the state has netted more than $11 million from retail pot sales alone.

Given all the stats, it's easy to understand why the governor is changing his rhetoric. By several measures, legal pot seems to be doing just fine in Colorado.

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