Pubdate: Sun, 23 Feb 2014
Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix, AZ)
Copyright: 2014 Associated Press
Author: Steve Peoples and Ken Thomas, Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) - All the buzz at the National Governors Association 
meeting over legalizing pot, some say, is just smoke.

Nearly three months after Colorado began selling recreational 
marijuana, the nation's governors are taking a cautious approach to 
loosening 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 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.

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.

But governors gathered in Washington this weekend had a more cautious approach.

"I just had a longstanding belief that legalizing marijuana would not 
be in the interest of our youth or our people," said Indiana Gov. 
Mike Pence, a Republican. "And I'll maintain my position in 
opposition to legalization as long as I'm governor."

New Hampshire Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan says she's opposed to 
legalization because her state already struggles with high rates of 
youth substance abuse. But she called for a "comprehensive look at 
our criminal laws and sentencing practices."

"I don't think we should be sending young people to jail or have a 
criminal record for a first offense," she said.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, called legalization "bad 
public policy" with unintended consequences.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom