Here’s Where Presidential Candidate John Hickenlooper Stands on Cannabis

On Monday, former Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper announced his candidacy for president in 2020, joining an already crowded field. He is one of a growing number of Democrats looking to retake the White House next year.

Hickenlooper served as the Governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019. During that time, the state legalized recreational cannabis under Colorado Amendment 64 in 2012. Notably, Hickenlooper was not in favor of the measure, famously saying  “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly,” after the initiative passed.

Still, Hickenlooper has said on several occasions that he respects the will of the voters, regardless of his own feelings on matter. And he's warmed up a bit toward the issue over the years. In May of 2016, he appeared on 'Late Night' and told host Seth Meyers that when the measure initially passed in his state, he did not agree with it, but said that his concerns were mostly administrative: he thought implementing legalization was going to be too much work, which isn't entirely surprising since no state had attempted to launch a market for recreational cannabis before.

“If I had a magic wand…I probably would have reversed it,” he said in reference to the 2012 vote. But after seeing how the market has developed since then, he added that it “might work” and called legalization a “great social experiment” worth trying.

That said, Hickenlooper also stated that if he had seen a large spike in crime related to cannabis, he wouldn't have ruled out trying to ban it again.

In a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone, the governor said that the “worst things they had great fear about” happening in the wake of legalization (including spikes in adult consumption, kids getting their hands on cannabis, and people driving high) hasn’t really happened. At the same time, he diminished the significance that legalization has had on the economy of Colorado, calling the $200 million raised in tax revenues a “drop in the bucket” that didn't do much more than cover the expenses of managing the legal industry.

On a more personal note, Hickenlooper has admitted to smoking cannabis as a teenager, but did so in his typically non-committal fashion, saying, “I smoked pot in high school and I inhaled, but it was a fraction of the intensity of what these kids are getting now.”

While Hickenlooper has been tepid in his support of cannabis publicly, his legislative record tells us a great deal about how the former governor really feels about cannabis.

In June of 2018, Hickenlooper vetoed three pieces of cannabis legislation, including one bill that would have extended access to individuals with autism spectrum disorders. This prompted then-representative Jared Polis, who has since gone on to succeed Hickenlooper as Colorado’s governor, to issue a statement condemning his actions.

So, Hickenlooper is not the strongest proponent of legal marijuana. Still, Colorado did become one of the first states to legalize recreational cannabis under his governance, so it's possible that the same thing could happen under his tenure as president if he wins the 2020 election. 

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