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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is in Amsterdam today, meeting with that city's mayor, to discuss lessons learned in Amsterdam from its marijuana regulation, which paved the way for pot liberalization in the 1970s.
The Netherlands recently cracked down on marijuana use by tourists, banning them from coffee shops where pot is sold. In Colorado, specially licensed stores that sell marijuana to people over 21 opened on Jan. 1, mostly in Denver.
Mayor Hancock, who opposed legalized recreational marijuana in his city, worries about increased crime and health impacts on children and has said the city is in "uncharted territory" on how legalized marijuana impacts neighborhoods.
He speaks with Here & Now's Sacha Pfeiffer about the trip and his concerns.
On what he learned from Amsterdam's industry and policy
"They clearly understand the marijuana industry. You certainly see the shops, you may even get a whiff of it every once in a while, but it's not something that's overwhelming. If a tourist doesn't want to come in contact with it, they don't have to, here in Amsterdam. So that's, I think, very important. A lot of states and cities that may be looking to implement it would be wise to take time to understand what the impacts of legalized marijuana in Amsterdam have been. They understand it, they do a lot of analysis and studying of quantitative and qualitative data, and, quite frankly, they got it right with regards to zoning, how you kind of relegate the consumption of marijuana to the coffee shops, and some of the stuff we've tried to emulate there in Denver is to be very restrictive of where you can consume the product, as well as who sells it and those sort of things. But they've been doing this for 38 years, and they recognize they still have some things to learn and, you know, areas in which they can get better."
On taking a cue from Amsterdam's issues with legalized marijuana
"We entered the market very restrictive. What you see, kind of the rollback here in Amsterdam, I think, is directly related to the fact they think it may have got away from them a bit."
"I think the proliferation of the number of stores here, the close proximity to the schools, was a challenge and is a challenge, and they're dealing with it, it sounds as if, as well as, really, a desire to have, you know, a different perception of what Amsterdam is all about. And that's been the issue in Denver, and Colorado, for that matter. Those of us who may have not supported the amendment when it was ultimately passed by the voters — it was really about, how do we protect the image of our state and our city, that we maintain the important industries, such as tourism, and that people feel safe and they don't feel like they're going to be inundated with marijuana, marijuana smell and things of that nature. So those are some of the lessons that they've picked up on, and certainly some of the lessons we came out of the box thinking about."
On what remains to be seen in a post-legalization Denver
"We still don't know what the impacts are to our police department, fire department, impact on our streets with regard to people driving under the influence, campaigns to keep kids away from drugs. There's a lot that we have yet to figure into this, our health facilities and things of that nature, and we don't know those yet. So while we may see or are able to calculate today the revenues that have been flowing into the city via tax, we still have yet to be able to calculate, really, what the impacts have been, and probably won't know that for quite some time."
This story aired on April 11, 2014.
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