Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper supports the recreational marijuana industry in his home state, but he’s also not opposed to repealing cannabis legalization if necessary to preserve public safety, writes James McClure.
“I’m not ruling it out,” Hickenlooper told CNN earlier this week when discussing crime in the Centennial State.
In 2014, Colorado became the first state to allow the sale, possession and consumption of recreational marijuana. Since then, a lot of fears surrounding cannabis legalization have been dispelled: the number of adolescent consumers didn’t spike, and the roads weren’t flooded with high drivers. But the crime rate has risen well above the national trend since 2014, and if cannabis is to blame for that, Hickenlooper is willing to pull the plug on the marijuana industry.
“Trust me, if the data was coming back and we saw spikes in violent crime, we saw spikes in overall crime, there would be a lot of people looking for that bottle and figuring out how we get the genie back in,” he said.
In 2016, the state’s crime rate was 5 percent higher than in 2013, which is noteworthy since the national trend has been moving downward in recent years. But Hickenlooper isn’t prepared to pin the blame on marijuana legalization just yet.
“This is one of the great social experiments of the last 100 years. We have to all keep an open mind,” he told CNN.
Meanwhile, the Denver Police Commander James Henning doubts that the rise in crime stems from cannabis reform.
“[Property crime is] the biggest driver of our [overall] crime, and of our increases. So, can you attribute that to marijuana? I don’t think you can,” Henning told CNN. “The data isn’t there.”
The Rise in ‘Unsavory’ Residents
Another law enforcer says that the increased crime is marijuana-related because the cannabis trade is bringing new and unsavory residents into the state.
“It’s not a causal thing,” Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith told CNN. “Every third inmate in the [Larimer County] jail is a transient and you go by and ask them, and they’ll tell you, we came here because of marijuana.”
But Governor Hickenlooper isn’t sure if those unsavory residents are coming because of marijuana or because the Colorado economy has improved so much thanks to legalization.
“When you have that kind of [economic] growth, you attract all kinds of people and a lot of them are unsavory,” he noted. “Do they come for the marijuana? Or do they come because there are so many young people coming, there’s a lot of money in the community and this is a great place to try and rob somebody? Again, more data. More data is the only way we’re going to figure this out.”
Hopefully law makers and law enforcers have the patience to collect that data before jumping to conclusions about cannabis legalization.