Hickenlooper warns Colorado lawmakers against “making waves” on marijuana

With bills on pot clubs and home delivery, the legislature is in a liberalizing mood. Gov. John Hickenlooper said now might not be the best time.
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A photo montage of Governer John Hickenlooper and a marijuana bud. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) hickenlooper; governor; marijuana; pot; weed; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;

So glad Kevin made this photo montage of the governor and some bud. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Even as the Colorado General Assembly is considering ways to reduce the movement of marijuana to the gray market, lawmakers are in a bit of a liberalizing mood this session. A bill to allow social consumption clubs passed the Senate, and they're considering another bill that would allow home delivery of marijuana.

Gov. John Hickenlooper said this year might not be the best time to do that.

"I do think, given the uncertainty in Washington, this is not the time to be reaching out to carve out new turf," he said. "... The federal government can take that and wield a pretty heavy hand. We should demonstrate that we're correcting the problems we have, that we're being responsible in how we're implementing the will of our voters."

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a long-time opponent of legal marijuana. U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Sessions reassured him before confirmation that marijuana won't be a priority, but members of the administration have suggested there might be heavier enforcement.

Hickenlooper was responding to a question about whether he'd sign a bill allowing pot delivery. Local governments that have opted not to allow retail sales in their jurisdictions and law enforcement groups have also come out in opposition to the bill.

Hickenlooper also expressed reservations about allowing social consumption clubs, particularly if they allow indoor smoking.

"We went to an amazing amount of trouble to say we're not going to have smoking in workplaces in Colorado," he said.

The social-use bill, which had bipartisan support in the Senate and has good prospects in the Democratic-controlled House, doesn't expressly prohibit smoking in marijuana clubs. Under existing law, membership clubs that have no more than three employees and are not open to the general public can allow smoking.

"Smoking is bad for you, very bad for you," Hickenlooper said, describing in detail how a marijuana smoker might take a long hit and hold the smoke inside their lungs. "I'm not sure that's a great thing to be encouraging."

The bill that would allow marijuana delivery is working its way through committees in the Senate and passed out of the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee with a unanimous vote.

Meanwhile, the bill to restrict residential grows is being heard in the House. That bill would limit the number of plants on a single residential property to 12, with no more than six of the plants being mature at one time. Current law allows up to 99 plants for medical caregivers and allows recreational users to assign their six plants to large co-ops. Law enforcement agencies say it can be really difficult to separate illegal grows sending pot out of state from legitimate home grows that just happen to be very large.

In a sign of how normal marijuana is becoming, Hickenlooper said state should bring its laws around how many plants can be grown in a home "back into accordance with the rest of the country."

"This is not where we want to be an outlier," he said. "Giving the uncertainty we’re getting from Washington, now is not a time to be making waves around this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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