Cannabis Governors Talk Legalization


Meeting in Washington this weekend, the National Governors Association discussed, among other things, the legalization of cannabis. Some say the buzz around the marijuana legalization talks is just smoke. The state executives, looking to Colorado and Washington for the experience the two pioneer states have gained since their recent legalization, appear to be taking a cautious approach on the topic.

It’s been nearly three months since Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana, but Governor John Hickenlooper warns other governors not to rush into following his lead on the matters of cannabis. The state executives, both Democratic and Republican, are reported to have expressed a broad concern, not only for children, but also for public safety, in the case of growing and spreading use of recreational marijuana consumption.

He said he’s been approached by half a dozen governors inquiring about Colorado’s experience, some of whom felt this was a wave coming their way.

When being asked by other governors, as he frequently has, he states that they don’t have facts, and further he says that they have insufficient data to predict what the unintended consequences may be, so he urges caution. In conclusion, the democrat added that he’d wait a few years, rather than rush forward to legalize cannabis.

States are closely observing Washington and Colorado, as these national pioneers establish themselves after their initiative to legalize recreational consumption of marijuana. A group of marijuana supporters now hopes to add Alaska to the list, making it the third state.

While confirming that Colorado’s early tax revenue collections on pot sales have exceeded their projections and their expectations, Hickenlooper still cautioned that tax revenue alone is absolutely the wrong reason to even consider the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Medical marijuana however, is currently legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. In the state of Florida, a vote will be conducted in November where a proposed constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis consumption will come to a decision. The Obama administration has given states a  green light to further conduct their own experiments with the marijuana regulation.

President Obama himself recently made the headlines in an interview where he stated that he didn’t consider marijuana to be more harmful than alcohol in terms of the impact it has on the individual consumer. He further added that he wouldn’t encourage people to smoke marijuana, and that he’d told his daughters he thinks it’s a bad idea, a waste of time and also not very healthy.

Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire stated herself to be opposed to the idea of cannabis legalization because the rate of substance abuse, being high among the youth, is already a struggle in her state. She did, however, call for a comprehensive look at our sentencing practices and overall criminal laws, adding that she doesn’t think they youth should have a criminal record for a first offence nor be sent to jail.

Another Democrat, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, formerly a mayor of Baltimore, a city where drug addiction has been a struggle, said that in a matter of a few years, Colorado’s experience would speak for itself, whether they’d manage to reduce harm without other, possibly unforeseen, adverse impacts. He also added that most job opportunities for the youth in his state, coming from agencies and firms of the federal sector, require a drug test. He concluded that he doesn’t believe for the sake of economic and, as previously noted, opportunity reasons, that Maryland should serve as a laboratory of democracy.

Another Democrat, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, said his state was succeeding in creating a legal hemp market and offered some advice to his colleagues. He said their will was to de-criminalize marijuana and so far it’s working well.

Last year, the Justice Department announced that as long as the state-legal marijuana businesses follow the given series of strict guidelines, it would largely stay clear. The memo was not to give a carte blanche to all would-be marijuana entrepreneurs, but the legal pot market found it encouraging.The Obama administration has further provided banks with guidance on how to approach business with cannabis companies, as of earlier this month, in an effort to make them more comfortable working with licensed and regulated marijuana businesses.

By Halldor Fannar Sigurgeirsson

NBC News