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Marijuana: John Hickenlooper warns other governors against rushing into pot legalization

Millions of dollars in tax revenue are now pouring into Colorado's coffers due to recreational marijuana sales.

And that's not to mention the personal-liberties victory that came when limited amounts of cannabis was legalized for personal adult use and consumption.

Yet Governor John Hickenlooper wouldn't suggest that other states change their laws to mirror Colorado's.

At least not any time soon.

"When governors have asked me, and several have, I say that we don't have the facts. We don't know what the unintended consequences are going to be," Hickenlooper said at the National Governors Association's annual meeting this past weekend in Washington. "If it was me, I'd wait a couple of years."

Hickenlooper urged his fellow leaders not to be enticed by the projected $184 million in tax revenue that Colorado could reap from the pot industry over the next eighteen months. He pointed out that he has requested that the majority of the tax dollars collected go toward youth marijuana prevention programs, substance-abuse programs and law enforcement.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

"When the voters passed Amendment 64, it became the state's obligation to implement it sensibly and responsibly, mindful of all Coloradans (especially mindful of our Colorado families and children). We have strategies to do exactly that," Hickenlooper said in a press release last week. "Now, thanks to the revenues generated by Proposition AA, which voters passed last fall, we have the funding to put them in place."

In other words, he doesn't want to bank on cannabis dollars for standard budget items before he sees what unintended consequences might arise. "We're going to not use this as a source of revenue to help education or expanding health care. We're going to use it in health care where it will relate to marijuana activity," he told his peers at a luncheon, adding, "I don't think governors should be in the position of promoting things that are inherently not good for people."

The reaction from Hickenlooper's peers was somewhat predictable. Governors from Kentucky, Connecticut, North Dakota, Maryland, Iowa, New Hampshire and Indiana all told reporters that they don't plan on calling for legalizing pot any time soon in their states. Iowa governor Terry Branstad called Colorado's changes "bad policy" and pot a "segue drug" that has no place in society. Even conservative radio host Bill Bennett gave Hickenlooper kudos for his conservative approach.

Interestingly, one governor who didn't seem to share Hickenlooper's concerns was Washington governor Jay Inslee. Though retail sales haven't started in his state yet and probably won't until the spring or summer, Inslee says the program is working well so far, and he believes the legalization of an ounce of pot for adults 21 and up has been a success. His advice to governors in states where marijuana legalization is a hot topic?

"I would encourage them to follow their state's will."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Two Pueblo pot shops make nearly $1 million in a month" and "Marijuana smoke shacks at Colorado ski areas freak out Inside Edition."