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Liz Ryan Headshot

Hickenlooper's Pot Hypocrisy

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In the election-night hoopla, I nearly missed the fact that Colorado voted in Amendment 64, a step in the direction of legalization of marijuana. We were the first state in the nation to do so. I saw the now-famous quote from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in the paper the next day. Hickenlooper said, addressing pot aficionados, "Don't break out the Cheetos or goldfish too quickly." That quote has been getting a lot of attention, but it rankled me when I saw it, and a few days later I'm downright angry about it.

Is Governor Hickenlooper really going to marginalize all pot-legalization advocates in one fell swoop as stereotypical slacker-stoners who spark up and then go stock up on munches at 7-11? Really, governor -- after you made your fortune and launched your political career by selling booze? Doesn't Hickenlooper see the hypocrisy in his sweeping generalization of all pro-pot types as not-quite-members-of-adult-society Cheetos eaters, when the alcohol he sold in his establishment is far more damaging, more expensive, and more lethal to Coloradans than pot will ever be?

The citizens spoke at the polls -- they don't think it's a big deal for a person over age 21 to light up a doobie now and then. The governor doesn't like it, and that's his privilege. But the good Governor should thank his lucky stars that lawmakers struck down Prohibition decades ago, or his rise to brewpub tycoondom would never have happened. Does he view his former status as an alcohol peddler as somehow superior to dispensary owners (and now, presumably, other kinds of cannabis purveyors) because pot smokers sometimes get the munchies? Are you kidding, governor? The pot (not the smokeable kind, but the pot-calling-the-kettle-black kind) is on Line 2, and he's asking for your extension.

It's tacky and un-leaderlike of Governor Hickenlooper to airily dismiss the cannabis-friendly population (which is to say, citizens who were unconvinced by decades of hysterical Reefer Madness propaganda not much different from Cold-War-era "Red menace" nonsense) as transfat-eating Cheetos fans. It's beneath him. The citizens pushed back against the stupid, ill-advised and irrational prohibitions that have put Colorado citizens at risk for years. (How at risk? When cops are busting mild-mannered people for smoking blunts, they aren't on the trail of the drunk drivers and criminals who deserve their time and attention.) Hickenlooper didn't seem to like the decision, but that's his problem. Thank goodness citizens got to vote on Amendment 64, instead of relying on elected leaders like "Booze Is Great, Pot Reeks" Hickenlooper to move Colorado and the U.S. into an age of enlightenment where cannabis is concerned.

Governor Hickenlooper should find a mirror and take a long look in it. His misplaced disdain for cannabis users marks him as a guy out of touch with his constituents and with the relative benefit and harm of two very different regulated substances. One of them causes tens of thousands of deaths a year in our country, and that's the one that Governor Hickenlooper doled out to great personal financial gain. The other one has never killed a soul. And Hick finds the nerve to wave off the sensible, pro-legalization crowd with a reference to low-end munchie fare? Dude may not smoke weed, but he needs to pull the needle out of his arm.