Last night, Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved special taxes on legal recreational marijuana sales with 65 percent of the vote. When the results were clear, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sent out this good-humored tweet in celebration of the measure passing:
Marijuana, Cheetos & Goldfish all legal in CO. Now we’ll have the $$ to regulate, enforce & educate. #copolitics
— John Hickenlooper (@hickforco) November 6, 2013
It's a callback to a line that Hickenlooper himself gave in his reaction statement to Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana when it passed in the state last November. That was before the Department of Justice had decided to let Colorado and Washington's new laws go into effect.
"The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will," Hickenlooper said in 2012. "This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly."
That line caught the Democratic governor some heat in 2012, when he was one of the most high-profile opponents of marijuana legalization in the state.
"What an insult to the majority of voters who did not follow your recommendation, governor," responded Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority last year. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that comment bite him in the ass."
But Hickenlooper, who once proclaimed that "Colorado is known for many great things -- marijuana should not be one of them," has done a turn-around, following through on the voters' will to legalize marijuana.
By the time the marijuana measures passed in the statehouse and made it to Hickenlooper's desk, he called the new laws, "common sense."
He supported the tax measure that passed last night, urging voters to approve it. "We need to make sure we have the resources to have a good regulatory framework to manage this," Hickenlooper said to The Denver Post.
Hickenlooper and Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee have even pressured federal banking regulators to provide increased flexibility in banking regulations so that state-licensed marijuana producers, processors, and retailers can have access to the banking system.
“Access to the banking system by these state-licensed businesses is a necessary component in ensuring a highly regulated marijuana system that will accurately track funds, prevent criminal involvement, and promote public safety," the governors said in a joint letter." In order to achieve the mutual federal and state goal of establishing tightly-controlled marijuana regulatory systems, we urge you to issue inter-agency guidance that will allow legal, licensed marijuana businesses access to the banking system.”
The tax measure that passed in Colorado Tuesday night creates a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales -- the revenue from which will fund public school construction -- and a 10 percent special sales tax on retail sales to fund marijuana regulation in the state.
"Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the nation that it is possible to end marijuana prohibition and successfully regulate marijuana like alcohol," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, which supported Proposition AA and the Amendment 64 campaign in 2012. "It is only a matter of time before voters and lawmakers in other states recognize the benefits and adopt similar policies."
The taxes are expected to generate roughly $70 million in additional revenue for the state in 2014 -- plenty of money for Cheetos and Goldfish crackers.
"This was the last piece of this marijuana policy marathon, the last leg," State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) told The Huffington Post about the tax measures. "It’s part and parcel to all the work we did in the regulatory piece, because if you don’t have means to enforce this, the laws will be rendered meaningless and this is the last critical piece to the work the legislature did."