Four state lawmakers joined a group of marijuana advocates Thursday in blasting Gov. John Hickenlooper over his veto of three pot bills, saying the term-limited Democrat’s decisions threaten Colorado’s place as a leader on cannabis and hurt patients, consumers and businesses.
“This is just a travesty,” said Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Denver, speaking to reporters outside the Capitol.
Hickenlooper turned down legislation that would have added autism to the list of conditions eligible for medical marijuana, allowed for pot “tasting rooms” and opened up the cannabis industry to investment by public companies.
Hooton was a prime sponsor of House Bill 1263, the medical marijuana for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders legislation,and said she was especially upset by Hickenlooper’s decision since a bipartisan group of lawmakers spent months working on the measure. She called its veto “absolutely devastating.”
Hooton vowed to bring the legislation back next year.
The governor said he vetoed House Bill 1263 because he couldn’t “ignore such overwhelming concerns from the medical community.”
Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said another veto, which keeps in place a block on investment from public companies in cannabis businesses, could help proliferate the black market for pot.
“One incredibly effective tool to mitigate this problem is to allow for legal markets to thrive,” she said of House Bill 1011. “The legal cannabis business industry, despite record high sales and record high taxes being paid, is not thriving. Businesses of all sizes, large and small, are today begging for traditional access to capital.”
The governor said that bill threatened to “degrade the robust regulatory system that Colorado worked so hard to establish.”
The marijuana tasting rooms bill, House Bill 1258, would have allowed adults at current recreational marijuana retailers to consume small amounts of pot through edibles or by vaping. The pot advocates who rallied against Hickenlooper on Thursday said the governor’s veto was hypocritical, given his history in the beer industry and running bars.
“I realize that I’m being overly cautious,” the governor said earlier this week, “but let’s take a step at a time. This is a big experiment. Let’s treat it like one.”
In all, Hickenlooper vetoed nine bills from the recently ended 2018 legislative session — the most he has ever turned down in a single year since becoming governor in 2011.