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Colorado Governor Hickenlooper’s Marijuana Advice To California

Colorado’s governor played sage to California on Tuesday, warning lawmakers that their state has a “steep hill” ahead in legalizing recreational marijuana and encouraging them to pay attention to aspects like home-grow regulations, pesticides and public security.

Hickenlooper addressed California lawmakers in Sacramento to discuss his learned lessons and words of wisdom from when his state established first-of-its-kind, adult-use cannabis sales in 2014.

“It’s one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in public life, but also one of the things I’m most proud of,” Hickenlooper said during a Senate Governance and Finance committee oversight hearing on cannabis tax system implementation.

Hickenlooper told lawmakers when voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012 and his concerns about the unintended effects of this kind of move, and of how he wasn’t at first a supporter of legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Take Colorado’s home-grow regulations, which allow for medical marijuana patients to have up to 99 plants with a physician’s approval. A “gray market” was spawned by the lax regulations in Colorado and created more possibility for out-of-state deflection, he said.

“It’s a stupid system, and I would encourage you guys to clamp down,” Hickenlooper said.

Amendment 64 permits adult residents to grow up to six plants; a variety of local ordinances have set a limit of 12 plants per household.

In hindsight, Colorado also should have put better care into its edibles regulations from the beginning — prohibiting cannabis-infused products that will be appealing to kids and ensuring clearer labels, actions that since were executed, he said. Developing powerful pesticide protocols also was highly recommended.

And there were the problems beyond Colorado’s control.

The inability for state-legal marijuana businesses to openly bank is a “terrible system,” he said.

“These are really vexing problems that you’re going to have some challenges on,” he said.

He talked highly of creating a collaborative and transparent system and also the successes which could come because of this.

From a “35,000-foot level,” Colorado has done pretty well from this experiment, Hickenlooper noted.

Health officials haven’t seen a spike in teen use; there hasn’t been a dramatic upsurge in general use or consumption; a collaborative taxation system exists to stamp out the black market and fund programs to address any unintended outcomes; and surveys reveal that residents are increasingly in favor of continuing legalization, he said.

“The United States now has almost 2/3s of the nation — I think it’s 64 percent of the people in America — lives in a state that has either legalized medical or recreational marijuana,” he said. “… I think it’s going to be among the great social experiments of the first half of the 21st century. And the more we work together, the more we can help each other, the better the results will be for our citizens.”

In response to a question about doubt on the federal level, Hickenlooper said he’s optimistic that legal states would not be interfered with by the Trump administration.

“We’re optimistic that President Trump is going to allow the experiment continue,” he said, “but they’re going to closely watch it, I’m sure.”

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