Election

Where Does Heidi Ganahl Stand on Marijuana?

Heidi Ganahl is the Republican nominee for Colorado Governor in 2022.
Heidi Ganahl is the Republican nominee for Colorado Governor in 2022. Heidi Ganahl for Governor
Heidi Ganahl has a lot of opinions. If elected in November, the Republican candidate for governor of Colorado would like to see several big changes, including restricting most abortions, adding more punitive criminal punishment for theft and drug dealers, and reducing energy regulation.

Ganahl's campaign website includes bolded terms and phrases from typical conservative talking points like "cut the size of the state government," "sanctuary state" and "job creation," as well as other hot-button issues such as "homelessness" and "fentanyl." However, there's no mention of marijuana or cannabis on Ganahl's list of priorities, and the issue didn't come up during her debate with Governor Jared Polis earlier this week (though the cars each candidate drove certainly did).

Ganahl's campaign declined to respond to our specific questions about her plans for marijuana regulation if she upsets Polis in the upcoming election, instead offering this:

"The voters have already decided on the legalization of marijuana in our state. We must respect the will of the voters. We also have to protect our kids from the black market. In addition to that, Governor Jared Polis refused to put a cap on THC potency in marijuana and so it is unlimited here in our state. High potency marijuana Is causing major issues for our kids — schizophrenia and psychotic breaks. Marijuana is also the most prevalent substance in children who commit suicide in Colorado. We must do better for our kids."

But Ganahl has been more vocal about her thoughts in other forums.

During a September 24 radio interview on KNUS 710, for example, Ganahl called Polis a "puppet" of Colorado's marijuana industry for his support of commercial legalization, and criticized him for allowing marijuana dispensaries to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He kept pot shops open but closed schools, churches and sports," Ganahl said during the interview on The Jimmy Sengenberger Show. "I'm not afraid to take on that industry. You know, we're not going to put the genie back in the bottle and illegalize it, but if you sell drugs to a kid, even marijuana, you should go to jail."

Ganahl argued that marijuana commercialization and the potency of concentrated THC products have increased Colorado's youth suicide rate and mental health problems, adding that legal marijuana "is destroying our kids."

This wasn't the first time that Ganahl has expressed that view. In 2020, she wrote a guest column for the Colorado Gazette titled "Colorado’s teen suicides fueled by pot, pandemic," in which she outlined a similar scenario.

"In Colorado, one in three of our 18- to 25-year-olds are consuming marijuana; one in seven are consuming marijuana DAILY. There has been a significant increase in the number of our kids who report using weed 20 to 30 times per month," she wrote without offering any sources for those stats.

The rate of marijuana use within the last thirty days among Colorado high school students decreased from 21.2 percent in 2015 to 13.3 percent in 2021, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That's lower than the national average, as well.

Ganahl's point about high-potency THC products did have some data behind it, however: The presence of THC in the systems of children who die by suicide has more than doubled since legalization, according to the Colorado Health Institute and the CDPHE, while the rate of teenagers admitting to using high-potency THC products has also increased at an exponential rate.

Commercial marijuana concentrates can consist of from 60 to upwards of 90 percent THC, and are generally vaporized or inhaled over high heat in a process known as dabbing. The potency of commercial marijuana products and dabbing among youth became hot topics at the Colorado Legislature in 2021, with a law eventually passing that put more restrictions on the state's medical marijuana program, including new daily limits for concentrate purchases and tighter packaging and labeling guidelines for both medical and recreational marijuana concentrate products.

Ganahl didn't go into details like that during the Sengenberger interview, though. Then again, she had hotter topics to discuss, including whether Colorado schools are allowing children to identify as cats.

This story has been updated to add a statement from Heidi Ganahl about marijuana, and to remove a reference to gay marriage. The candidate says she is for gay marriage, but also feels that religious venues should have a choice of who they perform the marriage ceremony for.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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