NORML recently released its 2020 Gubernatorial Scorecard, and Polis was one of only nine governors to receive an A.
“Polis’s grade was based upon what activities took place during his first year as governor in 2019,” explains NORML deputy director Paul Armentano. “He was pivotal in enacting a number of marijuana reform pieces, such as signing for regulation of marijuana delivery. Polis also has a reputation of supporting adult-use marijuana and celebrating the success of it.”
Polis not only signed into law House Bill 1234, which will allow and regulate marijuana home delivery, but also approved laws that expand access to medical cannabis and reduce criminal penalties for marijuana-related offenses. Polis’s gubernatorial action aligns with his public support of marijuana, from tweeting that he hopes Colorado will remain a leader in the marijuana economy to calling for the federal government not to interfere in Colorado’s marijuana industry.
At the end of his first year in office, Polis received a higher grade than John Hickenlooper did at the end of his gubernatorial career. According to Armentano, Hicklenlooper received a B+ at the conclusion of his second term, and that was an improvement over earlier grades he'd received as governor.
“Hickenlooper’s grade improving reflected a change in his own attitude in regard to marijuana,” says Armentano. “He became less and less skeptical to adult-use regulation as time went on.”
Hickenlooper initially called the vote to legalize marijuana “reckless,” saying he feared there might be a rise in drug use by children. He eventually warmed to the marijuana industry, however, and by the end of his second term said that he couldn't imagine going back to a time when marijuana was illegal in Colorado.
“The doubts Hickenlooper had largely went away during his time as governor, and he became supportive of marijuana by the end of his term,” says Armentano. “The overall change in his attitude and the public comments he made improved his grade.”
But that doesn't mean that all states are looking to Colorado as a model for marijuana legalization.
“Many lawmakers express disinterest in what other states are doing with marijuana policy,” explains Armentano. “How people want to do things in Colorado might not apply to what they want to do in another state.”
Still, he adds, with marijuana becoming more accepted in society, it's time for governors to start listening to what the residents of their state want.
“Most governors don’t align with their constituents’ view on marijuana policy,” he says. “The question shouldn’t be why voters don’t align with their governors' views; it should be why the governors' views don’t align with those of their constituents.”