Marijuana: Michael Hancock rips Amendment 64, campaign responds (update)
Update: The Amendment 64 campaign has replied to Mayor Hancock's comments below. The reply is on page three after the original post.
In the intensifying endorsement war around Amendment 64, Colorado's Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol act, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has come out in opposition, in part because he does not want his city to be perceived as a capital for marijuana.
In fact, he thinks Denver is already less attractive to some tourists because of the existence of medical marijuana in the state.
The medical marijuana industry here has not been as economically successful as supporters suggested, Hancock argues. However, during a reporters' roundtable last week, he didn't have much to say about the pro-64 argument that since alcohol, an arguably more dangerous substance, is legal, then pot should be, too.
"Let's just be clear: We're talking marijuana, so I'm not going to talk about the comparisons with alcohol," he responded. "And they always want to do that. The reality is that we're talking about the legalization of marijuana."
Amendment 64 commercials argue that some individuals simply prefer marijuana to alcohol and shouldn't be criminalized for it.
Sam Levin Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at a peace rally earlier this summer.
But comparisons aside, Hancock believes marijuana is a dangerous substance.
"I do firmly believe it's a gateway drug. I also think it's the wrong message we want to send our children that it's okay for them to consume or use marijuana," he said, adding, "We don't want to be the first state in this nation that legalizes marijuana. I believe we will lose our attractiveness to companies, employers who want to come to our state. Tourism is the number-one industry for the City of Denver, number two in the state of Colorado, and I believe that sector will be disproportionately harmed with the perception that Denver is the marijuana capital."
(Side note: In an off-the-cuff remark to reporters in August, Denver police chief Robert White, whom Hancock hired last year, said that when he accepted the job, he didn't realize he was moving to the marijuana "capital.")
Hancock maintained that there is proof that the existence of medical marijuana in the state has negatively affected Denver's reputation.
"We already have evidence that we are losing some of our ground or some of our attractiveness to conventioneers, tourists, because of the medical marijuana leeway that's been afforded in this city," he said. "And so those three points...cause me a great deal of concern."
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, who is a major supporter of Amendment 64, recently told us that he thinks legalization would have the exact opposite effect on tourism -- and that other states would follow in Colorado's footsteps.
Continue for the mayor's comments on how he thinks medical marijuana dispensaries have done in the state.