clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colorado's governor opposed marijuana legalization. But it's going so well, he's changing.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) opposed the campaign to legalize marijuana in his state. But in a recent interview with CNN's Cristina Alesci, Hickenlooper seems to have warmed up to legalization after seeing its successful first year in Colorado, which was one of the first two states to legalize pot through a ballot initiative in 2012.

"It hasn't been the economic miracle, the economic sensation that people thought it was going to be," Hickenlooper said. "But at the same time, it hasn't been the nightmare that a lot of us skeptics and critics thought it would be."

Asked if he's changed his stance on pot since 2012, Hickenlooper elaborated:

I think I have changed. I mean, I'm still in the process. I haven't made up my mind.

But if you had asked me the day after the voters … changed our constitution to legalize marijuana, if you asked me if I had magic pixie dust and I could magically change that, I would have done it.…

Now, I wouldn't be quite so quick to go back. I'd say let's give it another year or two and see if we can make a regulatory system that really keeps the bad guys out, keeps the pot away from kids, makes sure roads and highways are safe, and we have resources not just for regulation but to take care of the problems that get created along the way.

As Hickenlooper points out, Colorado's legalization rollout has faced few problems so far. The most dire warnings — like those about an increase in crime — never became reality. And the state government is getting $75 million in revenue from it all — not that much for a $10 billion general budget, but still a gain.

Still, there's a lot we don't know about the effects of legalization. It will take many more years of data to know its ultimate impact on rates of marijuana use — the widespread commercialization of marijuana has barely gotten off the ground, and drug policy experts expect commercialization will lead to more use as bigger pot companies advertise their products. And there's still a lot of debate about regulations — for example, how far the state should go in restricting pot-laced edibles that can take forms, such as gummy bears, that look appealing to children.

But the rollout has most certainly not been the disaster many critics warned about during the 2012 campaign. And that's changing the mind of some former opponents like Hickenlooper.