Marijuana

Has Colorado Gone to Pot? Not According to John Hickenlooper.

Governor John Hickenlooper talks about Colorado's stance on cannabis.
Governor John Hickenlooper talks about Colorado's stance on cannabis. U.S. Department of Agriculture
Back in April, Governor John Hickenlooper and the governors of three other states that have legalized recreational marijuana sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, urging them to respect the rights of states to pass such measures, and to consult with the states that have been operating under 2013's Cole Memorandum before making any enforcement changes.

It took until the end of July for Sessions to officially respond to Hickenlooper, though he's made plenty of statements in the interim and even met with Hickenlooper and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington. In his response, Sessions cites rising out-of-state diversion of marijuana, youth use, emergency-room visits and traffic deaths related to marijuana as cause for "serious questions." The stats he used, however, were from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Report, a report that has drawn criticism for its data-collecting and presentation methods.

In his letter, Sessions also questioned the power of the Cole Memorandum said that the Department of Justice's authority to enforce federal law in states that have legalized marijuana remains unaltered.

After receiving the letter, Hickenlooper's office promised to provide "a comprehensive response." That response went out on August 24, and it's indeed comprehensive, signed by both Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman:

Hickenlooper-Coffman Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Michael_Lee_Roberts on Scribd

Point by point, the letter from Coffman and Hickenlooper debunks the junk science and just plain junk in Sessions's response to the governors. "We take seriously our duty to create a robust marijuana regulatory and enforcement system," they conclude.


Here's hoping that Sessions takes his duty to enforce states' rights equally seriously.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.