In these dwindling days of his final year in office. Gov. John Hickenlooper has the chance to help children. He can improve Colorado's future, save lives and improve his legacy.
It begins with the simple stroke of a pen. He should veto House Bill 1258, in the likely event it survives the Senate and lands on his desk.
The bill authorizes retail recreational pot stores to operate "tasting rooms" for patrons to consume the drug on site. That means more stoned drivers on our roads, further increasing pot-related fatalities. The bill also authorizes recreational marijuana retailers to open additional locations, potentially doubling THC retail.
Each evolving variety of this bill aims to ease and increase the sale and consumption of recreational pot.
Hickenlooper has earned the unseemly distinction as the political symbol of pot, having reigned as the lenient governor overseeing the country's most drug-friendly government. He governs the stoner state, a cautionary tale of irresponsible drug policy.
The governor should take the loving advice of his ex-wife, the award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Helen Thorpe. He is smart; she is a genius. Here's what Thorpe said to her former husband, with whom she co-parents a child, in a friendly tweet Monday:
"I adore my ex-husband and agree with him on almost everything. (And, should he ever run for something else, he's got my vote.) But on this one, I agree with USA Today and the Colorado Springs Gazette. They are calling John out on an important issue, and as the mom of a teenager, I have to say kudos to the editorial pages of these papers. On this particular issue, the Op Ed columnist is right, and John is wrong. He needs to amend his thinking on legal pot and its implications. It IS affecting kids negatively."
Thank you, Ms. Thorpe. Teachers and parents of teenagers agree. Big marijuana retail, and anything goes legalization, is disastrous for our youths.
Thorpe reacted to comments Hickenlooper made to Rolling Stone, claiming youth pot consumption and people driving high has not increased since Colorado legalized the drug. A column in The Gazette and USA Today, by Denver resident Peter Droege, refuted Hickenlooper's claim with data from The Denver Post and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The Gazette/USA Today column documented how Colorado is a national leader in pot use among 12-17 year olds. It cited a Denver Post investigation showing a 145 percent increase in fatal crashes involving pot-impaired drivers between 2013 and 2016.
Hickenlooper called the data "faulty" when confronted about Thorpe's tweet a day later at a Tuesday news conference.
Even famously liberal CNN questions Hickenlooper's pot apologetics, suggesting Colorado's soaring crime rate may have nexus to legalizing pot.
"In 2016, the state's crime rate was up 5 percent compared with 2013, while the national trend was downward," CNN reports. "Violent crime went up 12.5 percent in the same time while the national increase was less than 5 percent. But Hickenlooper isn't yet ready to pin the blame on the legalization of weed — a step he opposed but has since embraced as the choice of his constituents."
Hickenlooper told CNN: "This is one of the great social experiments of the last 100 years. We have to all keep an open mind."
We will not keep an open mind to an "experiment" that is likely killing people on highways and jeopardizing kids. Our children should not be test animals for air-headed experiments that challenge generations of knowledge, experience and common sense.
CNN asked Hickenlooper if he would support recriminalizing pot, if negative data continue pouring in.
"Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in," Hickenlooper said. "It doesn't seem likely to me, but I'm not ruling it out."
To which CNN responded: "Data is now coming back," citing the damning crime numbers.
As commercial marijuana takes an insidious toll on Colorado, anecdotal and statistical indicators will get worse.
Early next year, Hickenlooper will have no means to make positive change. When most agree the "experiment" failed, Hickenlooper could get much of the blame for failing to follow his initial instincts and lead the way for better regulation.
The governor should veto House Bill 1258, the pot industry's latest ploy to quell an insatiable desire for more profits. He should spend the next nine months trying to mitigate this disastrous experiment he wisely opposed before the money poured in. The governor should listen to his insightful ex-wife, who respectfully explained he is wrong.