As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, anger over Gov. John Hickenlooper’s veto this week of several important marijuana bills that passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support has yet to subside, with proponents, bill sponsors, and the industry continuing to ask why the lame-duck beer-brewing governor chose to make such a public display of disdain for an industry that helped put Colorado on the map during his expiring term:
Four state lawmakers joined a group of marijuana advocates Thursday in blasting Gov. John Hickenlooper over his veto of three pot bills, saying the term-limited Democrat’s decisions threaten Colorado’s place as a leader on cannabis and hurt patients, consumers and businesses…
Hickenlooper turned down legislation that would have added autism to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, allowed for pot “tasting rooms” and opened up the cannabis industry to investment by public companies.
Hooton was a prime sponsor of House Bill 1263, the medical marijuana for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders legislation,and said she was especially upset by Hickenlooper’s decision since a bipartisan group of lawmakers spent months working on the measure. She called its veto “absolutely devastating.”
Here’s more from Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder on the governor’s veto of House Bill 1263:
HB18-1263 passed the CO State House and Senate with broad bi-partisan support (90%). We worked countless hours with these tireless, committed families, and as legislators across the aisle, did our research and came to the same conclusion that seven other states, representing every region of the country, have already come to – recognizing the value of medical marijuana in significantly reducing the symptoms of autism – CA, FLA, MI, MA, PA, GA, DE. It took a lot of groundwork and collaboration to get this bill passed and was devastating to see it vetoed. I’ve already requested the bill for reintroduction next year with confidence that our next Governor will be more knowledgable about the value of [medical marijuana] and engaged in the legislative process…
While I definitely applaud the call to research, it isn’t going to help alleviate the hardships these families are experience now, or stop children from dying while we wait for it to happen. [Pols emphasis]
Colorado Public Radio’s Ann Marie Awad:
Much of the ire was focused on the veto of HB 18-1263, which would have added autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying conditions under the state’s medical marijuana program…
“We have to be here for our children,” Walker said. “We cannot risk losing them. We want to work with our doctors and medical professionals, and we want to do this legally and the right way.”
Walker and others also slammed the timing of the veto at the very end of the day Tuesday, right before Hickenlooper left town Wednesday.
“We respected you, and you vetoed our bill at 5:01 p.m., when we respectfully and cordially left the Capitol,” she said. “This is a slight to our families.”
Politically this unexpected series of vetoes of marijuana bills appears to be backfiring, with much more negativity about the vetoes in press coverage than discussion of Hickenlooper’s defenses offered in his veto letters. In the case of the autism bill, this anger at least partly results from Hickenlooper’s contradictory statements about the reasons–that there wasn’t enough data, then claiming flippantly that the bill could encourage youth marijuana use.
In all cases these were bills intended to resolve legitimate issues, crafted with stakeholders on all sides, and supported by legislative coalitions that spanned the ideological poles. Vetoing these bills, especially with a record as governor of only very rarely vetoing legislation passed with bipartisan support, leaves a permanent blemish on Hickenlooper’s image with no political upside we can see.
If that looks different by 2020, we’ll let you know. As of now it looks like a huge mistake.