Marijuana: We're not undermining recreational pot sales launch, Denver mayor's office says
With the January 1 kickoff for recreational marijuana sales in Colorado drawing ever nearer, we're hearing more and more people within the cannabis community complaining about the city's approach. A common perception is that Denver mayor Michael Hancock's personal opposition to pot legalization is filtering down to city agencies and negatively coloring messaging, as epitomized by the unenthusiastic tone of the city's official marijuana website. But a Hancock rep says nothing could be further from the truth and stresses the city's efforts to make the launch go smoothly.
Big photos below.
"The mayor's personal opinion on the legalization of marijuana plays no part in how the licensing process city council approved is implemented," says Rowena Alegria, director of communications for Hancock's office. "The voters have spoken and we're implementing Amendment 64 to the best of our ability."
To put it mildly, Hancock didn't carry a flag for Amendment 64. He was among the most vocal opponents of the proposal, with the following comment from October 2012 laying out his views well.
"I do firmly believe it's a gateway drug," Hancock said at the time. "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 allowed, 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."
Since A64's passage, Hancock has made fewer statements like this one, but his antipathy for marijuana legalization is never far from the surface. Take the following statement released in conjunction of the aforementioned website introduction earlier this week.
Photo by Sam Levin Denver mayor Michael Hancock at a peace rally during the summer of 2012.
"We promised the people of Denver that we would implement Amendment 64 in a responsible manner, protecting our neighborhoods, our children and our quality of life," Hancock was quoted as saying. "We continue to work hard to balance the divergent needs and wants of many in the community.
"That means respecting the will of the voters, who last year approved Amendment 64, which allows people 21 and older to have and consume small amounts of marijuana, while also striving to keep our city enjoyable for those who do not and should not be impacted by this substance."
We've had multiple conversations with marijuana industry members who feel the mayor's focus is more on the latter group than the former, but many decline to say so publicly for fear they'll face licensing-process delays in retaliation for their views. However, as noted by our William Breathes in a post about the prospect of recreational shops running out of marijuana shortly after January 1 due to overwhelming demand, 3D Dispensary owner Toni Fox told the Huffington Post there's a growing sense among applicants that city officials are purposefully dragging their feet on a program they don't want to implement.
Hancock has "never been a supporter of the industry from day one," Fox told HuffPo. "I feel like we're fighting against a city government that doesn't want us even though the constituents have voted us in. It's very frustrating."
As for the website, the landing page greets residents and visitors with flash graphics telling them plenty of things they can't do related to marijuana, like this....
...while studiously avoiding any suggestion that the city is welcoming the industry despite the millions in revenue it's expected to generate.
In response, Alegria spells out the city's goal when it comes to the website and its efforts to help get as many shops as possible ready to open on January 1.
Continue for more of our interview with Denver mayor's office spokeswoman Rowena Alegria, including additional photos.