The tone around marijuana hasn’t just changed in the Colorado Legislature since the state's voters enshrined recreational cannabis in the state Constitution in 2012, with the first stores opening in 2014.
On the national stage, the commitment to legalization by top Colorado politicians appears to be growing stronger, even as the attitude of the federal government could be shifting toward greater enforcement.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who opposed legalization and has often criticized the growing industry, made his strongest statement yet in support during a national broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press” in February. While the governor stopped short of endorsing the industry, he said he is as close as he has ever been to calling it a success.
“I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but we have made a lot of progress,” the governor said. “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use; if anything, it’s come down in the last year, and we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers.”
The governor received pushback for his remarks; a group of national addiction experts who are legalization critics wrote a letter stating, “The only representative sample of teens ever conducted in Colorado, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), shows that Colorado now leads the nation among 12- to 17-year-olds in (A) last-year marijuana use, (B) last-month marijuana use, and (C) the percentage of people who try marijuana for the first time during that period (‘first use’).”
But a state survey of students found that teen marijuana use has remained flat since legalization.
Hickenlooper has since tempered the evolution talk, saying he remains concerned about consequences from legalization. Perhaps the biggest concern is people using loopholes to grow a high number of plants at home legally but then diverting the product illegally to the gray or black markets.