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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper lays out his plans for the next state legislative session at a news conference in his office at the Capitol in Denver Dec. 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking) Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper lays out his plans for the next state legislative session at a news conference in his office at the Capitol in Denver Dec. 19, 2013. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)  

Hickenlooper warns other states about rushing to legalize pot

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has not been an eager ambassador for his state’s marijuana legalization.

Hickenlooper has urged governors to be cautious when considering similar moves in their own states, telling Politico “the jury is still out on this thing.”

He added that governors shouldn’t look at legalizing marijuana as a source of revenue.

“We’re trying to look at this and say the tax revenues we’re raising are not to reduce other taxes or reduce government spending,” he is quoted as saying. “I don’t think anyone should be looking at it as a source of revenue.”

That may be easy for him to say, considering that the latest projections are that marijuana retailers will sell an estimated $1 billion in weed by year’s end, earning Colorado $134 million in sales tax. If the estimate proves true, that’s nearly double the projection from a year ago, before stores began selling marijuana to adults for recreational use.

Hickenlooper, who opposed the legalization amendment in 2012, said he wants the money raised from pot sales to be spent on drug treatment and education aimed at kids and young adults. He is worried about a spike in young pot smokers.

“We do have polls that show a larger number of kids expect to experiment with it because they think it’s not as dangerous as they used to think because now it’s legal,” he said. “We know people are not going to be better off smoking pot. It doesn’t mean they should be arrested … but we know it doesn’t make you smarter.”

When he proposed his drug education and treatment budget last week, several coauthors of Amendment 64 criticized it as continuing to promote outdated notions of marijuana’s dangers. And they want part of any educational efforts to include comparisons to alcohol and tobacco.

“Voters approved Amendment 64 because they wanted to put an end to government-run anti-marijuana campaigns, not to fund new ones,” said Brian Vicente, the co-director of the Yes on 64 campaign, in a press release. “The governor should explain why he feels all of these new marijuana-related programs are necessary when the health and safety of teens are threatened to a much greater degree by alcohol use and prescription drug abuse.”

“We have an incredible opportunity to chart a new course in the state when it comes to teen substance use and abuse,” he continued. “We hope the legislature will approach this issue more thoughtfully than the governor has.”

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