WASHINGTON — All the buzz at the National Governors Association meeting over legalizing pot, some say, is just smoke.
Nearly three months after Colorado began allowing sales of 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 on 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.