As cannabis enthusiasts celebrate 4/20, the unofficial stoner holiday, the state that has led the nation in legalization says it may not always be so open to the drug.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper tells CNN he is not ruling out making marijuana illegal again, as the state’s crime rate has been rising since recreational use of the drug was made legal in 2014. As of yet, there’s no research that ties the increased crime rate to the Colorado’s recreational pot law.
“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. “It doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m not ruling it out.”
Hickenlooper wasn’t in favor of legalizing marijuana, but he went along with it when constituents made it clear they were.
Since 2013, Denver has seen its crime rise as the national average has fallen. In 2016, the crime rate was up 4%, with violent crime rising 9%. Denver police, though, say they don’t believe that can be attributed to marijuana.
The state has, of course, seen benefits too. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, Colorado took in $105 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales. That money is being used to create housing programs, aid mental health programs in jails and contribute to health programs at local middle schools.
Colorado’s legalization also sparked a national rethinking of marijuana. Since its landmark action, many states have followed suit. Today, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 29 states. In 2017, legal marijuana sales hit $9.7 billion in North America, according to a report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics. That’s a 33% increase over 2016. And a recent Pew Research Center poll found 61% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized nationally.
This is the first time Hickenlooper has acknowledged he might consider recriminalization, even if it’s a long shot. The news comes days after Sen. Chuck Schumer announced his support of nationwide decriminalization of the drug and former Speaker of the House John Boehner has changed his stance on marijuana.