ABC News follows up on the passage of Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana in Colorado:
Voters in Colorado and Washington pushed the limits even further when they approved ballot measures Tuesday allowing adults over 21 to possess small amounts of marijuana under state regulation and taxation.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said Colorado will respect the will of voters but added that he was awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Justice on how to proceed.
“In a situation like this, where our law is at loggerheads with federal law, my primary job is to listen first,” the governor said.
Hickenlooper opposed the ballot measure and has downplayed the likelihood of a commercial marijuana market materializing in Colorado.
“Based on federal law, if it’s still illegal under federal law, I can’t imagine that 7-Eleven is ever going to sell it,” he said.
In a Denver paper editorial today, we’re told of a new amendment to the federal Controlled Substances Act proposed by Rep. Diana DeGette that would simply exempt state laws regarding pot. It’s odd to learn of such a thing from an editorial as opposed to a news story, but we expect advocates for Amendment 64 will be happy to see it nonetheless.
So where does that leave Gov. Hickenlooper? Considerably less proactive, folks.
Hickenlooper’s first response to the passage of Amendment 64 was to warn proponents “don’t break out the Cheetos and gold fish too quickly.” Hickenlooper probably thought he was being cute, but doesn’t that seem a little insulting to the 53% of Colorado voters who approved this? Certainly not all of those voters were pot smokers with the munchies–they had other, more serious reasons for voting to legalize marijuana.
Like ending a failed policy that has needlessly criminalized millions of people.
On Friday, Gov. Hickenlooper and state Attorney General John Suthers, who has pledged to implement Amendment 64, had an inconclusive phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Again, Amendment 64’s advocates are showing restraint in their public comments, but there is a sense that Hickenlooper is almost hoping the feds will put the kibosh on Amendment 64, and is purposefully not doing enough to support the will of the voters here.
With all of that in mind, and especially given Gov. Hickenlooper’s charge to uphold the will of Colorado voters–more directly his responsibility than DeGette’s–we think he should strongly consider adopting a more aggressive stand. We certainly aren’t downplaying the conflict between state and federal law, obviously that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room.
But for Gov. Hickenlooper to more or less insult an electoral majority, while meekly awaiting the edict of federal law enforcement on Amendment 64, makes him appear feckless and contemptuous of the same Colorado voters who elected him–even more of whom, we are obliged to point out, voted to legalize marijuana than voted for John Hickenlooper in 2010.
Bottom line: on this issue, like marriage equality for gay and lesbian people, reproductive rights for women, and sane immigration reform, we see a new majority consensus emerging with generational change. The issues aren’t related except in the respect that the voters are really beginning now to act against what they see as wrong–and reject politicians who don’t.
Which side do you think Hickenlooper should be on?