Wednesday, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper held his first press conference since announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
In a wide-ranging press conference, the most questions were about marijuana legalization.
Hickenlooper’s views have evolved as the substance has mostly moved from the streets to cash registers. He was a vocal opponent of the 2012 ballot measure voters eventually approved to legalize recreational marijuana sales.
“We have relentlessly stayed, as the Quakers have called, fair witness. To try and get the information objectively and let the facts speak for themselves,” Hickenlooper said.
He said the data has lowered his concerns. He was concerned about teen use spiking, but said the statistics have shown that hasn’t happened in Colorado since the law change.
He did stress changes he wants to see on the federal level, such as allowing banks to handle money from dispensaries without being charged with money laundering, and reclassifying marijuana from a schedule 1 substance.
He also believes the federal government should impose a legalization mandate because decisions should be made at the state level.
“Trust me, the marijuana industry is not going to support someone who says ‘Well, I don’t think it should be illegal in every state. Every state should get their choice,'” Hickenlooper said. “I’ve tried, as I have in anything, not to make decisions based on political benefit, but what on what is the best path for the community.”
Hickenlooper also pointed out another national issue he would like to model off Colorado: regulations for the oil and gas industry.
“We were able to get the oil and gas industry to sit down with the environmental community and actually create the first methane regulations in the United States,” he said.
Hickenlooper said those regulations were the equivalent of removing emissions from more than 300,000 cars. He said it was a big step toward combating climate change, and bringing similar regulations to a federal level would be beneficial.
“When you have a concentration of opinion, for us not to act with a huge sense of urgency, it’s government malpractice,” Hickenlooper said. “I think like in almost every great social transformation everyone says ‘We can’t do it, we can’t do it, we can’t do it,’ then there’s a tipping point where it happens amazingly rapidly.”
Hickenlooper was asked about his stance for border security, where he doesn’t support the President’s wide-reaching border barrier plans. He said he didn’t have the information to say whether he thinks a barrier could be effective in some areas.
“When I see families apprehended, their children ripped away from their mothers in many cases, those children were put up for adoption after a certain amount of time, doesn’t that fall under the heading of kidnapping?” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper was asked about the report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that says 76,000 people crossed the border in February, double the rate of the year before.
“I think that data is a condemnation that their strategies don’t work,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper will hold his first campaign rally at 5 p.m. Thursday at Denver Civic Center Park.