A guided tour of what John Hickenlooper has said about weed (and magic wands)

A compilation of noteworthy things that Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado has said about legal marijuana.
6 min. read
A photo montage of Governer John Hickenlooper and a marijuana bud. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) hickenlooper; governor; marijuana; pot; weed; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;

A photo montage of Governor John Hickenlooper and marijuana buds. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Let's pretend you're going on a platonic blind date with John Hickenlooper. Great! He's very tall, so he'll be easy to find, and he also is the governor of Colorado.

You're going to talk about lots of things– maybe beer, maybe gentrification, maybe fracking – but at some point it's going to be weed. Everyone, or at least every journalist, wants to ask this guy about weed. In fact, he's probably really tired of it.

That is why, as a service to John Hickenlooper and to you, we have compiled just about everything of note that the governor has said in the last few years about marijuana, including the all-important topics of magic wands and getting stoned in the woods.

Once you've read it, please go ask him a new question and report back with the answer.

Governor, do you get high?

  • “I’ve always felt that you have to get the joint rolled really tightly." [5/13/13, The New Yorker]

This was a pretty good joke – the writer had asked Hickenlooper "how he handled pot" – but there may be some truth to it. The governor smoked in his 20s to make him less awkward at parties (does that really work?) but hasn't touched it "in decades." [1/28/14, The New York Times]

“It makes you slow down and clumsy. I wouldn’t do it even if I was completely by myself in the forest or whatever.”

Also, he writes in his memoir that as a college student he once got "a little" high and took a nude photograph of himself in the bathtub. [5/23/16, Denver Post]

Governor, in terms of weed's legal status, what would you do with a magic wand?

Hickenlooper has told at least five news outlets that he at one point would have reversed the flow of time and the electoral/legislative process. Among them:

  • "If I had a magic wand that I could have waved and reversed the decision of the voters ... the day after the election, I would have waved my wand." [12/26/14, Denver Post]
  • "If I'd had a magic wand and I could wave the wand, I probably would've reversed it and had the initiative fail." [1/9/2015, 60 Minutes]
  • "I would've reversed the election and said, 'This was a bad idea.'" [1/23/15, CNBC, via The Hill]

But why would you meddle in the dark arts like that?

Before and during legalization, Hickenlooper seemed most concerned about health consequences of today's "high octane" pot, as well as the "brand" of the state.

A photo montage of Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver's latest cash crop. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
  • "It’s ten times more potent than it was twenty-five years ago. You lose 10 to 20 percent of your memory. That’s such a crucial part of human existence, right? In the end, I came out against it, because there was no funding for the consequences.” [5/13/13, The New Yorker]
  • "Certainly, this industry will create jobs. Whether it's good for the brand of our state is still up in the air. But the voters passed Amendment 64 by a clear majority. That's why we're going to implement it as effectively as we possibly can." [5/28/13, KDVR]

His plan for doing that: "We're going to regulate the living daylights out of it."[6/19/2013, Bloomberg via Getty]

How did the first year go?

Legalization happened in January 2014, and Hickenlooper expressed mixed opinions on it through the rest of that year.

  • "I think decriminalization would've been a wiser first step ... Some of the anxiety has been laid to rest. We don't see a spike in adult use. We don't think we see a spike in youth consumption although there are some things that are disconcerting." [7/1/2014, to Katie Couric via The Atlantic]

At a debate on the eve of his reelection, he very nearly called legalization "reckless."

  • "I think for us to do that without having all the data, there is not enough data, and to a certain extent you could say it was reckless. I'm not saying it was reckless because I'll get quoted everywhere, but if it was up to me, I wouldn't have done it, right? I opposed it from the very beginning." [10/6/14, KDVR]

Then he literally said "What the hell?" and called it reckless anyway.

A naturally-occurring source of controversy. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The next day, his office issued this clarifying statement:

  • "I was asked if I thought it was reckless to legalize marijuana in Colorado -- perhaps risky is a better word. While I believe it was risky for Colorado to be the first state to step away from a failed federal policy given all of the unanswered legal questions and implications, the adoption of Amendment 64 by Colorado voters sent a clear message to the federal government that marijuana should be legal and regulated." [10/7/14, International Business Times]

So what happened to the wand?

Hickenlooper either doesn't have any wizardly implements, or he decided not to use them.

Either way, he turned more optimistic in his public statements starting in December 2014, about a year into legalization. That's when he told the Denver Post that the rollout was "largely successful," and that by then he "wasn't so sure" that he'd use the wand. [12/26/14, Denver Post]

Observe the evolution:

  • "It's not impossible to see that we could create a regulatory framework that works." [12/26/14, Denver Post]
  • "It's interesting, we've obviously learned a tremendous amount, the whole team has been going at light speed" [1/23/15, Huffington Post]
  • "The people who were smoking marijuana before legalization still are. Now, they're paying taxes." [2/17/15, USA Today]
  • "First, it's all those young people coming ... They look at marijuana and say, 'Hey, we can drink whiskey. Why can't we have a legalized system with marijuana?'" [4/27/15, Fox Business via Westword]
  • “If you gave me that same magic wand today, I’d put it in a drawer for a year.” [10/20/15, Jerusalem Post]
  • "I don’t know if I would wave it [the wand]... It’s beginning to look like it might work.” [5/17/16, Los Angeles Times]

There you have it: John Hickenlooper on weed.

And know that, like most Coloradans, Hickenlooper may die a little when he hears a bad pot joke.

“It’s no fun ... No matter how big a failure the war on drugs was, you don’t want to be the butt of late-night jokes.”  [1/28/14, The New York Times]

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