The Denver Post recently reported on big changes in store for the cannabis industry in Colorado. A new Democratic-controlled legislature and a governor that has been more supportive of cannabis reform opens new possibilities.
Gov.-elect Jared Polis, a Democrat, has vowed to sign into law many of the cannabis bills that saw misguided vetoes by Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this year, assuming those measures pass the legislature again next year. Those bills include an effort to allow for cannabis tasting rooms, a move to allow additional investments in the cannabis industry, and a push to include autism as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. Delivery will also once again be included in a cannabis legislative agenda next year.
Hickenlooper made the poor political calculation of trying to distance himself from the cannabis debate. Polis, however, has taken a different approach by not only refusing to run from cannabis, but actually embracing it as a swing issue. He won in Colorado, defeating his Republican opponent, Walker Stapleton, in a historic win that gave the Democrat a more than 10-point victory. Stapleton took a hard-line approach to marijuana, which did not resonate with voters.
Shortly after the election, Hickenlooper took note, attempting to embrace the legalization experiment by touting its benefits. It was the obvious choice for the governor to make, given his likely run for president. In a nation where nearly 70 percent of Americans support legalization, standing on the wrong side of history can cost you a local or national election. The “green wave” only continued in 2018, with Michigan embracing recreational marijuana, while conservative states like Oklahoma and Utah moved the needle on allowing medical marijuana programs.
Given the political trends and a changing legislature and governor’s office in Colorado, it makes sense that lawmakers and the cannabis industry are looking for ways to meet consumer demand, while ensuring the integrity of a safe and responsible legal marijuana marketplace.