Gov. Hickenlooper in Aspen: Marijuana needs tight regulation |

Gov. Hickenlooper in Aspen: Marijuana needs tight regulation

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
Gov. John Hickenlooper shakes hands with Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo on Friday. Hickenlooper was in town speaking to some 50 sheriffs from around the state as part of the County Sheriffs of Colorado conference at the Limelight Hotel.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke at the Limelight Hotel on Friday as part of the County Sheriffs of Colorado conference, and as his appearance came to an end, one attendee stood up and said he couldn’t let the governor out of a room in Aspen without addressing marijuana first.

Hickenlooper, who was among the majority of Colorado lawmakers who opposed legalization, said the good thing is that there are more young people moving to Colorado than any other state in America. Many of them are entrepreneurs, and it boosts the local economy, he said. The bad part, he said, is that Colorado “will be the way California used to be, on the cutting edge of social nonsense.”

“Jimmy Fallon a few weeks ago said, ‘Those folks in the stoner state of Colorado — they’re so high they can’t even spell Hickenlooper anymore,’” the governor said. “That’s not good.”

However, he argued that law enforcement can agree that the war on drugs has been a failure. Any kid who wants to smoke pot has access to it, he said.

One law enforcement official spoke up, citing a study in Michigan that showed “every time we got serious, the user numbers went down significantly.”

Hickenlooper asked how many lives have been ruined over dime bags. However, just because the war on drugs failed, he said, it doesn’t mean it should have been legalized.

“I think now that we’ve got it, we’ve got to figure how to make it work,” he said.

The governor explained that there was a lot of tape when he opened the Wynkoop Brewing Co. in Denver. The state regulated “like nobody’s business,” he said, adding that if a gallon of beer were spilled, it had to be recorded. That should be the approach with recreational marijuana, he said.

He explained that his office has been in contact with a professor from Stanford, who is experimenting with water that works as an atomic signature for marijuana, allowing law enforcement to tell if it’s legal or not.

The goal, he said, is to make it possible that “if you pick up marijuana, you can tell if someone paid taxes or if it was contraband.”

In an estimated $700 million to $1 billion cash business, he said it’s undeniable that there will be crime. He claimed the governor’s office is spending a huge amount of time lobbying the federal government so that “they get their head out of … the sand.”

One of things he asked of the sheriffs in the room is to keep marijuana away from children because it’s not the same as alcohol. He has spoken to researchers who claim kids who smoke high-THC marijuana will have “worse mental conditions, more rapidly and more frequently.”

“That’s a fact,” he said, adding that the number of kids saying they will smoke marijuana for the first time within the next 12 months has nearly doubled.

“That should scare the daylights out of all us because these kids think it’s harmless, and we know for a fact that the science is different,” Hickenlooper said. “How do we connect with these kids, which is very hard in this day of fractured media? They don’t all watch the same shows or listen to the same music.”

He discussed his office’s attempt to reach musicians who will relate to the situation. One person the governor’s office has approached is Willie Nelson. If Nelson agreed, he would appear in a commercial basically saying, “Hi, I’m Willie Nelson. I need to give you some important information about smoking marijuana when you’re young, but I can’t really remember what it is I was supposed to say.”

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