Governors: Legalized pot buzz is just smoke

File - This Dec. 31, 2013 file photo shows partygoers smoking marijuana during a Prohibition-era themed New Year's Eve party celebrating the start of retail pot sales, at a bar in Denver. Colorado voters still support the state law that legalized recreational marijuana, but most believe it is hurting the image of the state, according to a new poll released Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 51 percent of voters overall believe the measure is bad for the state's reputation, while 38 percent see it as a net positive. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

WASHINGTON (AP) — All the buzz at the National Governors Association meeting over legalizing pot, some said, is just smoke.

Nearly three months after Colorado began selling recreational marijuana, the nation’s governors are taking a cautious approach to loosening their drug laws despite growing support for legalization.

Republican and Democratic state chief executives meeting in Washington this weekend expressed broad concern for children and public safety should recreational marijuana use spread. At the same time, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is warning other governors against rushing to follow his lead.

He said he’s spoken to “half a dozen” governors with questions about his state’s experience, including some who “felt this was a wave” headed to their states.

“When governors have asked me, and several have, I say that we don’t have the facts. We don’t know what the unintended consequences are going to be,” Hickenlooper said. “I urge caution.”

The Democrat continued: “I say, if it was me, I’d wait a couple of years.”

States are watching closely as Colorado and Washington establish themselves as national pioneers after becoming the first states to approve recreational marijuana use in 2012. A group is hoping to add Alaska as the third state.

Colorado became the first to allow legal retail sales of recreational marijuana Jan. 1, and Washington is expected to launch its marketplace soon.

Hickenlooper confirmed that early tax revenue collections on Colorado pot sales have exceeded projections but cautioned that tax revenue “is absolutely the wrong reason to even think about legalizing recreational marijuana.”

Medical marijuana, meanwhile, is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Florida voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana in November.

President Barack Obama’s administration has given states the green light to experiment with marijuana regulation.

Obama recently generated headlines when he said in an interview that he didn’t think marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” He said smoking marijuana is “not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”

Recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans support efforts to legalize the drug. The issue cuts across party lines as liberals and libertarian-minded Republicans favor the shift.

But governors gathered in Washington this weekend had a more cautious approach.

“I just had a longstanding belief that legalizing marijuana would not be in the interest of our youth or our people,” said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican. “And I’ll maintain my position in opposition to legalization as long as I’m governor.”

New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan said she’s opposed to legalization because her state already struggles with high rates of youth substance abuse. But she called for a “comprehensive look at our criminal laws and sentencing practices.”

“I don’t think we should be sending young people to jail or have a criminal record for a first offense,” she said.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a former Baltimore mayor whose city has dealt with drug addiction, said in a few years other states would know “whether Colorado was able to reduce harm without creating other adverse impacts unforeseen.” But the Democrat noted that in Maryland, many job opportunities for young people come from federal agencies or firms with federal contracts that require employees to pass drug tests.

“I don’t believe for economic and opportunity reasons that this is an issue where Maryland should serve as that laboratory of democracy,” he said.

The Justice Department said last year that it would largely steer clear of state-legal marijuana businesses as long as they follow a series of strict guidelines. A department memo did not give carte blanche to would-be marijuana entrepreneurs, but the legal pot market viewed the department’s position as encouraging.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration provided banks with guidance on how to do business with marijuana firms, aiming to make banks feel more comfortable working with marijuana businesses that are licensed and regulated.

Meanwhile, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said implementation of his state’s decision to create a legal pot marketplace was succeeding. He also offered some advice to his fellow governors.

“I would encourage them to follow their state’s will,” he said. “Our will was to de-criminalize this product. And so far it’s working well.”

(13) comments

whitemanfortyfour

The LEGALIZATION WAVE IS COMING to the ENTIRE United States! The LIES, SHEER STUPIDITY, and RACISM behind the MJ Prohibitionists is CLEAR CUT and the minorities(soon to be the MAJORITY) along with the rest of the FORWARD THINKING MAJORITY OF DEMOCRATS are going to deal them a POLITICAL STOMPING!!!

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2ndAffirmative

If we'd known the risks of alcohol and tobacco we never would have let the pandora out of the box. When alcohol and tobacco are used in moderation they aren't really bad either. The Native American just passed the peace pipe but the white man had to have two twenty packs a day.

Making marajuana easy to get with encourage excess consumption.

neo-gnostic

People act like not regulating cannabis is going to make it go away. Let's stick our head in the sand for another 40 years. Let's ignore that it's your body, your choice and the fact that it is non-toxic and about as psycho-active as coffee once tolerance has been established. Let's keep a policy based on fear and ignorance and ignore that prohibition never works. Let's ignore life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

joelp77440

I am for legalizing pot but I don't smoke it. I have only a handful of times in my early twenties but never took to it. I never took to it for I found and still do find that pot is for losers. Most of my high school friends were major pot heads, all of them went to college like me and all of them failed out because they made smoking pot their major. Other friends from college who kept smoking it daily never added up to much until they quit. I have no daily baker friends who made it out of the service or labor industries.

Some of my more successful friends will say, "I smoked daily and I am ok." I will then say," You did smoke daily and stopped. Kind of hard to hold down a job and three kids when you get high everyday." Only entertainers smoke everyday.

Losers smoke pot.

chrisafrazier

Just imagine what Michael Phelps could have accomplished had it not been for weed. So sad.

NASCARLOVER

3/4 of Frederick County were reared on the so-called "whacky weed", isn't it apparent???

LeonardKeepers

legalizing marijuan is/would be a huge mistake. it just behoves me to no end why people want to fool around with whacky weed or any other type of ilicit drug. there are far too many other things to get pleasure from without smoking whacky weed. smoking whacky weed leads to the use of other types of drugs. once this country gets real hooked on whacky weed it could be attacked and taken over without firing a shot.

2ndAffirmative

Let the people of another state be the guinea pig in the research. Legal marijuana is going to be so expensive the illegal market will have to double to meet the demand; there is no cash cow to exploit here.

adtwiggiv

Of course the Governor of Colorado wants other states to wait a few years, that way his state can secure the lead in manufacturing of marijuana products and dominate the market once other states follow suit. The Governor of Washington got it right, follow the will of the people, and right now the consensus in the U.S. is to decriminalize marijuana.

Brian Kelly

The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer.

The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

Marijuana is much safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

Let's end this hypocrisy now!

The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

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[thumbup]

president8444

Why not and tax it plenty other states will get plenty of money while users here do as they pleas with no tax ,just free jail time.Oh welldemmies in charge again.

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