Since the measure legalizing the sale and purchase of recreational marijuana for those older than 21 in Colorado was conceived, Gov. John Hickenlooper has eschewed climbing aboard the recreational marijuana bandwagon. He staunchly opposed Amendment 64 during its 2012 campaign season, was far from celebratory when it passed, and participated in the ensuing rule-making willingly, but with markedly lackluster enthusiasm. He has been consistently quoted making less-than-glowing comments about the new marijuana landscape in Colorado. Through it all, though, he has upheld the law and worked diligently to ensure that its regulatory framework is clear, comprehensive and functional.
In that regard, then, Hickenlooper has been a key figure in transitioning recreational marijuana sales and purchases from post-election giddiness to a serious, well-regulated enterprise. That has had the dual effects of legitimizing what was formerly the stuff of Cheech and Chong movies and stoner jokes – though both remain in abundance – as well as thrusting Colorado onto the national stage as a model for how to effectively administer a fundamental shift in both legal status and societal values. Plus it has generated much-needed tax revenue for the state, to boot.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the marijuana trade would like to see Hickenlooper re-elected. While he has hardly been a spokesman for the industry, he has been instrumental in shepherding it into legitimacy, providing a clear and rigorous set of standards by which it must abide. Doing so has given the marijuana industry an opportunity to succeed – and it has. From January to May, marijuana sales delivered $23.6 million in tax revenue to the state, reflecting more than $200 million in sales of recreational and medical marijuana combined, though the latter outpaced retail sales nearly two to one. Regardless, the industry would not have enjoyed such success had the state not provided it a solid framework within which to operate. Whether he himself supports recreational-marijuana sales, Hickenlooper has ensured that they occur safely and consistently.
For that, the marijuana industry has much to be thankful, and it is. “While he may have personal opinions about legalization ... he still enabled and was the leader in place at the very foundation of adult-use regulation,” said Joe Hodas, spokesman for a large marijuana products manufacturer. “There’s definitely credit that needs to be given there.”
The industry also has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo by seeing Hickenlooper re-elected and is putting money into that effort. Most notably, marijuana industry leaders held a fundraiser for the governor Tuesday at a swanky Denver hotel, and the governor attended. While he and the event’s organizers are being criticized for mixing their messages, there is a more fundamental statement to be taken from the fundraiser and Hickenlooper’s presence. Politically or culturally aligned or not, the governor and marijuana industry have worked together to implement and enforce a new law – imposed by Colorado voters – in a safe and consistent manner. That makes them bedfellows, like it or not, and both are right to acknowledge the relationship.