When Colorado legalized pot four years ago, Gov. John Hickenlooper was initially opposed to the move.
Like many politicians in his state, Hickenlooper says he was concerned about public safety and increased drug use among his constituents — especially teenagers.
“We had a lot of fears that we would see a real spike in teenage use, we would see real issues around edibles, a large increase in overall consumption,” the governor told Vassy Kapelos on this weekend’s edition of The West Block.
“And we haven’t seen any of that … We certainly look at (legalization) differently now than we did back then.”
As Canada gets sets to legalize pot by July 1, 2018, Hickenlooper is hoping that his state can serve as a model for Canadian lawmakers. His advice is to be prepared for unintended consequences and surprising trends, while keeping public safety and the health of young people top-of-mind.
“I think it’s an experiment in process, but we’ve made so much progress,” he said, adding that one of the surprises was that teenage drug use didn’t change, but Colorado did see “a slight increase among senior citizens — so make of that what you might.”
In its third year, pot was already a $1-billion industry in Hickenlooper’s state. The biggest challenge, he said, has been trying to create a regulatory framework from scratch.
The state had to reduce the number of plants people could grow legally in their homes, for instance, and cracked down on edible marijuana that looked like gummy bears, as the products could attract very young children.
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There are also lingering questions surrounding how to police pot use behind the wheel. Right now, the only way to measure the amount of THC in a driver’s bloodstream is via a blood test, the governor noted.
“Hopefully you guys will learn from our mistakes,” he told Kapelos.
“I’m not going to tell Canada what’s good or bad … At a national scale like what Canada’s doing, they’ll have resources … that we don’t. So I think they’re doing it the right way.”
And if the federal government has any questions, he added, he’s happy to take their calls.
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