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Gazette Premium Content Hickenlooper says he opposes pot legalization

KRISTEN WYATT Updated: September 13, 2012 at 12:00 am

DENVER — After months of silence on marijuana legalization, Colorado's governor says he opposes making pot legal for recreational use.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon that making marijuana legal would send the wrong message about drug use. Colorado is one of three states considering ballot measures this fall to legalize pot in defiance of federal drug law.

"Colorado is known for many great things — marijuana should not be one of them," Hickenlooper wrote.

Hickenlooper has previously avoided taking a position on the marijuana proposal. The measure would allow adults over 21 to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana.

The governor said Wednesday that legalizing marijuana without a doctor's recommendation would send the wrong message about pot.

Legalization "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," Hickenlooper concluded.

Colorado is currently one of 17 states that allow marijuana use by people with certain medical conditions. Two other states, Oregon and Washington, are also considering ballot measures to make recreational pot legal. Colorado voters rejected recreational pot in 2006.

Hickenlooper's announcement wasn't unexpected, but it was still a blow to marijuana activists. They have been trying to argue that marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and would be better kept from children if it were regulated.

"We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not," said Mason Tvert, head of Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

Legalization proponents lost another battle Wednesday when a Denver district judge rejected their attempt to block a state-issued voters' guide. The guide, sent to nearly 2 million households, explains ballot measures and gives voters arguments on both sides.

Lawmakers who approve the guide recently trimmed an argument that marijuana is safer than alcohol from this year's edition. Legalization proponents argued the deletion was improperly done, but the judge ruled Wednesday that the court could not interfere with how lawmakers craft the guide.

Hickenlooper tried not to take an anti-marijuana tone in his opposition statement. He called for lenience for marijuana users.

"While we are sympathetic to the unfairness of burdening young people with felony records for often minor marijuana transgressions, we trust that state lawmakers and district attorneys will work to mitigate such inequities," Hickenlooper said.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire opposes the legalization proposal in that state. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has not taken a position.

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Follow Kristen Wyatt at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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