GOP candidate offers stark weed warnings, but nobody’s promising a crackdown in Colorado

Even if a Republican wins the Colorado governor’s office, there’s very little chance that the state will abandon its support of legal marijuana.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

Even if a Republican wins the Colorado governor’s office, there’s very little chance that the state will abandon its support of legal marijuana.

However, at least one GOP candidate is promising a harder line against cannabis producers and drugged drivers. In a recent radio interview, Victor Mitchell said that Colorado has badly mishandled legalization.

From there, we’ll review what we’ve heard from the other GOP candidates for governor in 2018.

Victor Mitchell:

Mitchell spoke last week with local radio host Dan Caplis. In the interview, he called for new regulations on marijuana and highlighted concerns about drugged driving. He also questioned whether weed tax money was properly reaching schools.

“We’ve had no leadership from the executive branch of government. There’s been no counter-narrative to the industry. The money has been ripped off,” Mitchell said. That’s been a frequent talking point, though the Colorado Department of Education has reportedly received more than $140 million in marijuana revenues.

“People have literally been getting killed — they’re so high on dope,” Mitchell said after discussing car crashes involving cannabis. (More drivers in fatal crashes are indeed testing positive for marijuana, but it’s very difficult to tell how often marijuana caused the crash.)

“We have to really start calling the industry out. We have to get much more sensible regulations about that,” Mitchell said. He called for an “aggressive public awareness campaign.”

Still, he added: “We can fix this. I don’t like the idea of the federal government coming in and shutting the whole industry down.”

Mitchell had the biggest bank account in the GOP race after giving himself $3 million.

Walker Stapleton:

Stapleton has called for greater oversight of medical marijuana, arguing in an op-ed that just 24 doctors have issued “the majority” of prescriptions for nearly 100,000 medical marijuana cards. He agreed that there are legitimate medical uses of marijuana, but said it’s “way too easy” to game the medical marijuana system, which allows users to buy without paying county or state tax.

Stapleton is raising blockbuster amounts of money, per The Denver Post.

Cynthia Coffman:

Like Gov. John Hickenlooper, the current state attorney general said it’s “too late for the federal government to step in and dismantle this burgeoning industry.”

She wants a continued focus on preventing drugged driving, enforcement against cartels, and prevention of sales to minors — all of which are stated priorities of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Steve Barlock:

Barlock has run on a Trump-ish agenda against “globalist” Bushes and Romneys. He describes legal marijuana as a states’ rights issue.

“I support Colorado small businesses, including those involved in legalized marijuana,” his website states.

But, he adds, the “literal interpretation of our U.S. Constitution requires the Congress to legislate laws. I would support Colorado’s Senators and Representatives working on a proper fix of this issue in Congress.”

Lew Gaiter:

The Larimer County commissioner “was opposed to the statewide ballot measure legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado, but he helped green-light two pot businesses as a (Larimer County) commissioner once it passed,” per Corey Hutchins. We’ve asked for further comment.

Greg Lopez:

Lopez lists “recreational marijuana” among the “diverse industries” that drives the state’s economy. We’ve asked for further comment.

Doug Robinson:

He also opposed Amendment 64, but he takes a familiar line: “Coloradans have spoken, and as governor, it would be my duty to uphold the will of the voters. I’ve been a steadfast advocate for thoughtful regulation that gets marijuana out of the hands of our kids and helps law enforcement officers shut down the black markets. We need to ensure that Coloradans are getting the marijuana industry they were promised.”

For more on the candidates:

Refer to our guide to the GOP governor’s race.