Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s tough stance on legalized marijuana could lead to federal closure of some facilities in states where it’s legal, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) predicts in a new interview.
“He does not think in any way that it’s a good thing for this country to have legal marijuana, so when he rattles his saber, I wouldn’t be surprised if he closes down one or two of these facilities just to make that statement,” Hickenlooper told The Hill’s Power Politics podcast.
In 2012, Colorado voters amended the state’s Constitution to legalize recreational marijuana, which went on sale there in 2014. Hickenlooper opposed the measure initially, but has defended the decision as the will of his state.
Thirty states and Washington, D.C., have laws legalizing marijuana in some form. The Colorado governor said the trend is nearing “critical mass” and should nudge Congress and the Trump administration to take specific, supportive action.
“Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, Congress will step in and say, ‘OK, we’re going to allow states to pursue these experiments, and we’re going to let them have banking so it’s not all done in cash, and you’re putting people’s lives at risk, and we’re going to have better tests … someone’s going to figure out a breathalyzer for marijuana,’ ” he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has told governors the administration is weighing an approach to banks that remain leery of serving marijuana businesses and their cash transactions. Governors believe the allure of cash encourages crime and threatens public safety.
After talking with the attorney general, Hickenlooper said he believes the Justice Department wants to “sow doubt” through tough federal action as a way to deter the marijuana trend nationwide.
“There’s no predictability now in the marijuana business,” Hickenlooper said during a discussion on the sidelines of the annual National Governors Association conference in Washington this week.
The term-limited governor, who is in his final year in office, said officials in other states consult him about the pros and cons of legalizing cannabis.
“I tell people to wait another year or two,” he said.
The Colorado governor said that, to date, research in his state has not shown an increase in marijuana use by teenagers nor a surge in people driving while high, something that critics of the measure warned could happen when voters weighed legalization in 2012.
One consequence, he said, is that many former black market vendors have emerged from the shadows.
“Now, look at all these people who are involved in the marijuana business and are paying taxes. They’re not breaking the law,” Hickenlooper said.
During a separate interview this week, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, said he also defends marijuana legalization as a states-rights issue.
In 2015, Alaska became the third state to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older.
“It’s created a bit of commerce,” the governor said, noting that no communities have voted to opt out. “It has generated employment.”