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John Hickenlooper opposing marijuana Amendment 64, both sides react

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Late yesterday afternoon, in the biggest surprise since the sun rose in the east, Governor John Hickenlooper announced his opposition to Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. Amendment proponent Mason Tvert responded with a statement charging Hick with hypocrisy -- a theme that echoes reaction to the negative ruling in a Blue Book lawsuit a few hours earlier -- while the No on 64 forces touted his stand. Read all their comments below.

Hickenlooper, who's always had a finely tuned sense of perception, began his announcement with a reference to reputation before segueing into a drugs-are-bad rap -- and tossing in a sop to reformers at the end. His statement reads:

Colorado is known for many great things -- marijuana should not be one of them. Amendment 64 has the potential to increase the number of children using drugs and would detract from efforts to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. It sends the wrong message to kids that drugs are okay.

Federal laws would remain unchanged in classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance, and federal authorities have been clear they will not turn a blind eye toward states attempting to trump those laws. While we are sympathetic to the unfairness of burdening young people with felony records for often minor marijuana transgressions, we trust that state lawmakers and district attorneys will work to mitigate such inequities.

In response, Tvert opens up with both barrels, blasting Hickenlooper for attacking marijuana use despite a past as a tavern owner, where he made money dispensing a product cannabis advocates and plenty of others regard to be more dangerous than pot. He writes:

Governor Hickenlooper's statement today ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics. After building a personal fortune by selling alcohol to Coloradans, he is now basing his opposition to this measure on concerns about the health of his citizens and the message being sent to children. We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not. The public health costs of alcohol use overall are approximately eight times greater per person than those associated with marijuana. And alcohol use is associated with violent crime. Marijuana use is not.

I personally started working on this issue in 2004, following the death of two Colorado college students from alcohol-overdoses. My work, including this campaign, has been dedicated toward improving public health, not diminishing it. We do not believe adults should be made into criminals for choosing to use a less harmful alternative to alcohol, if that is what they prefer. We are not sending the wrong message by saying adults should not be punished for using marijuana. Governor Hickenlooper is sending the wrong message by telling all Coloradans that they should only be allowed to use alcohol.

Like these words, Tvert-associate Brian Vicente's broadsides against the aforementioned Blue Book ruling -- e.g., "We've seen decades of propaganda and government actions trying to prevent people from educating themselves about marijuana prohibition" -- suggest that the campaign's tone will now be harsher toward elected officials and representatives trying to prevent the amendment's passage. After all, it's now as clear as can be that the vast majority of the powers-that-be think maintaining the marijuana status quo will be a lot challenging than making a bold move in opposition to federal policy.

As for Smart Colorado, the No on 64 campaign, the organization rushed out its statement so quickly after Hickenlooper's dropped that it's not actually attributed to anyone in particular, although it was sent by spokeswoman Laura Chapin. It reads:

We want to thank Governor Hickenlooper for doing the right thing and opposing Amendment 64 today. Colorado is a wonderful place to raise a family and do business, and Amendment 64 would negatively impact both.

As Governor Hickenlooper put it, "Colorado is known for many great things - marijuana should not be one of them."

He is absolutely right, and we believe voters will come to the same conclusion and vote No on 64.

The message here is that Amendment 64 backers shouldn't expect many high-profile Colorado electees to risk their political futures by publicly expressing their support for the act. They'll have to rely on the voters to do that.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Amendment 64 backers lose Blue Book fight, rip government deception."

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