Why this medical marijuana patient voted for John Hickenlooper for Governor of Colorado

There’s a great divide within the marijuana community over who to vote for in the Colorado Governor’s race.

I’ve already cast my vote, and I might as well be open about it. I voted for the incumbent, Governor John Hickenlooper.

I pay more attention to what candidates do than what they say. And both Republican and Democratic candidates have said some pretty stupid and offensive things regarding marijuana. Sure, I’d like them to say nice things about marijuana, but they haven’t. Left to choose, I’d much rather side with rhetoric that urges caution than rhetoric that suggests repealing our marijuana laws. I may not like the direction some of the regulations have gone, but I’m willing to keep working on them rather than throwing everything out and starting over.

No, Hickenlooper hasn’t embraced marijuana in the way we all would have liked. But it was his collaborative leadership style that the Brookings Institute credited with the success of Colorado’s legalization efforts so far. With the creation of the Task Force, he forced both sides to come to the table, actually talk to each other and find common ground. This has proven to be an effective model for dealing with this issue that has rippled out into working groups and task forces across the state and the country. I hope that whoever wins will continue that collaborative spirit. If we’re gonna figure this out, we’ve got to do it together.

No, legalization doesn’t look like what I envisioned. I would venture to say that’s true for everyone. Legalization doesn’t look like what any of us imagined or wanted. That’s because no one has gotten everything. Not Democrats or Republicans or any other party. Not patients or caregivers. Not the medical or adult-use industries. Not law enforcement or the medical community. And certainly not the prohibitionists. All argue for their own interests. We are co-creating this new reality together, and no one is getting everything their way.

It’s no secret that, despite some very passionate urging, I didn’t come out in favor of Amendment 64. I realized that it could have mixed results for medical marijuana patients. Yes, to agree with the Governor, it was risky. And it’s still risky for patients and caregivers who have become targets for those who think that medical marijuana is a sham, an excuse to get high without paying taxes.

Sure, there are third-party candidates that are more favorable toward marijuana. But as much as those third-parties like to say otherwise, it does matter whether or not your candidate can win. They can say all the right things, but in the end, if they can’t cross the finish line, their message is lost. They won’t be the ones making the decisions. Someone else will. Who that someone else is matters.

It takes a lot of effort and resouces to run a state-wide campaign. When I talk to folks outside of the marijuana community, very rarely do I find anyone who knows who the other candidates are. Like it or not, name recognition and financial support are critical in an election. And when I talk to third-party candidates who aren’t even making an effort to reach outside their circle for votes, I find it difficult to believe that they are serious candidates who really want to win.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that “Unaffiliate” voters don’t vote along party lines. They do, if you can get them to vote at all. Have the third-parties led strong get-out-the-vote efforts? Are they working on overturning Citizens United to get money out of politics and level the playing field? They’d better, if they want to win.

If you think that voting third-party is going to send some sort of message, that the marijuana community will get any sort of credit for throwing the election, think again. There’s a long line of special interests, like fracking and guns, with much more power and money ahead of us, waiting to take credit for the defeat.

I, like most people I know, would really like to get beyond the two-party system. But it’s going to take some work to get there like campaign finance reform and inclusive debates. In the meantime, we have to deal with the reality that legislation and regulation will continue, no matter who gets elected.

Looking ahead, Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Code is up for sunset review in 2015. That means that all the regulations regarding medical marijuana centers, manufacturers and cultivators are up for consideration. They could let it expire (which they won’t), leave everything the way it is (which they won’t), or make changes (which they will).

Who wins matters. If Dunafon or Hess or Hempy don’t win, and they aren’t likely to, who is your next choice? Who do you think will be more reasonable in considering new regulations on the medical marijuana industry? Who is more likely to listen to patients? Hickenlooper or Beauprez?

I voted for Hickenlooper.

Now it’s your turn.

Go out and vote.

Categories: Advocacy, Colorado, Policy & Politics

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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