Why Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper Says Amazon Is Missing Out If It Doesn't Pick Denver For HQ2

February 5, 2018

Denver made it to the shortlist of 20 cities to be the sit of Amazon's HQ2. Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO) explains why being chosen for the tech giant's second headquarters would be a huge boost to Colorado.

Governor Hickenlooper clarifies a comment he made about the HQ2 competition, when he was quoted saying that he "wouldn't cry" if Denver wasn't chosen. He says that was meant to be a joke, and that being chosen by Amazon would be a major boost to the state's economy.

Governor Hickenlooper also discusses the latest development in the state, and around the country, when it comes to marijuana. Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, is considering creating a marijuana delivery system.


Baker Machado: Welcome back everybody to Between Bells political edition, with Brad Smith and Baker Machado, and California might be the largest recreational marijuana market. But guess what guys? My home state of Colorado, it was the first. Now, the Centennial State is looking to create a marijuana delivery program. So, joining us on more and more on that is the governor of that great state Mr. John Hickenlooper. Governor, great to have you back on as always. So, what made you guys decide you were looking into maybe a delivery program?

John Hickenlooper: Well, there's been a lot of pushing to have a delivery program. I'm not sure it's going to get passed this year. But, you know, the, the, in the pro side, I mean, people get home delivery of liquor, and that's obviously illegal for kids. So, the marijuana folks are saying, "Well, why can't we have home delivery of marijuana." And I think, uh, I think there's an argument that it's more dangerous to kids. That's the argument that's being put out there. So, we'll see. It's going to be a healthy debate.

Brad Smith: The program would be limited though to certain municipalities. [OVERLAPPING] Um, so, who specifically and where specifically would it be available on?

John Hickenlooper: I'm not sure exa- again, that would be based on how that legislation gets put together, and which communities engage, uh, with it. So,uh, generally, it's the more liberal communities that, uh, are willing to try something innovative like this that hasn't been done before.

Baker Machado: Um, governor, we've heard you on other with California of course, finally legalized that the product just a few weeks ago. Um, have you got any insight on- from California about how well things are going there? Have they been reaching out to you to get more specifics on how to do things? As I know, you guys have gone through a huge trial period in Colorado to kind of ke- fine tune the process. Uh, so, has the governor Jerry Brown reached out to you for any more updates or things to help them with?

John Hickenlooper: No. Governor Brown, and I talked just about a year ago. I spent a little over probably an hour and 10 minutes in his office. I was out there to request the General Assembly because they wanted, you know, hear first hand what were the lessons we learned. And Jerry Brown was even more inquisitive. I mean, the man is, uh, naturally curious in a way beyond most people. And he asked a lot of good questions. They wanted to find out, you know, tamper-proof containers. Uh, how do, how do we manage to make sure there wasn't a spike in consumption by teenagers? Uh, I saw- I saw Governor Brown again in October, and we revisited the topic, and you know, when he takes on an issue like this, he gets himself pretty well informed.

Baker Machado: Right. Uh, there's actually some interesting, jo- uh, numbers out from ZipRecruiter. They're actually expecting the jobs for ma- in the marijuana industry to actually outpace those in tech, and the IT space. If they look through [LAUGHTER] it. Basically, 70 percent of the job postings on ZipRecruiter were somehow marijuana based. That's higher than tech and by health care. His only worry that a lot of those jobs that you've created in Colorado in the marijuana industry might go to other states. Is there any worry that that might influence the economy in Colorado?

John Hickenlooper: No. I don't think so. You know, we don't [inaudible 00:02:57] [LAUGHTER] We do everything we can to make sure no marijuana leaves Colorado that is [OVERLAPPING] grown here legally. So, those jobs can't be, I don't think easily exported to other states. Now, there are some companies that have opened dispensaries or, or grow houses in other states have now multiple locations. And they might choose maybe their headquarters will end up being in California rather than in Colorado. But you know, those- that's a relatively small number of jobs, and I'm not going to- we're not going to start elbowing people over, you know, [OVERLAPPING] things like that.

Baker Machado: But, uh, are numbers like that surprising to you Governor when you see that essentially the job placements are higher than the health care, in the tech industry right now, does that surprise you with how much this has really boomed in terms of the economy? I mean, to look at this, to think that essentially, that in- by 20- by the end of this year, California is likely to spend more money on marijuana than beer, and you're a beer guy, and that's big numbers.

John Hickenlooper: [LAUGHTER] That is concerning because, you know, as long as- you know, the big issue it, it concerns me just as a beer guy. But as long as you keep the marijuana out of the hands of kids, because we know that this high THC marijuana, if you're smoking it when you're 16, 17, 18 years old when your brain is rapidly growing, we're pretty sure it takes away a little sliver of your long-term memory every time you use it. So, that's the, the primary concern. I think the jobs, I mean, part of it is this is a brand new industry in California. So, of course, it's gonna have huge growth the first couple of years. More than IT, more than health care, but I think it will settle. Once said, once you get through kind of filling up the pipeline, the rate of job growth will, will continue at that high level.

Brad Smith: And governor, last time we spoke, you had mentioned how your state is actually looking into retroactively reviewing some of the sentences that had been dealt out. [OVERLAPPING] Have any other states reached out to you to kind of get your own strategy and your review process, and garner how that could be applied to their region and municipality and territory as well?

John Hickenlooper: Well, I talked to a couple of governors informally, uh, and, you know, I just- we had a meeting on this, this morning coincidentally, and it's, it's roughly about 40 cases where we can be absolutely sure there was no violence involved in the sentencing. Uh, for several of the people or a number of them, it was multiple times that they've been arrested, and prosecuted for marijuana or marijuana sales. So, we're going to go back and look at those, and I think it's legitimate to, to least go case by case is all right. If we can get these people out of jail, and take some of the pressure. You know, the cost of incarcerating people, I mean, you know, you lose sight sometimes. I mean, this country spends 80 billion dollars a year, if you include jails and prisons all the kinds of incarceration. We put- we incarcerate more people than, this is what I was told, I got to look it up and make sure but, more people than Russia and China together. And this is maybe an example of a place where we can take some of the people that have been locked up, and get them out in short order or get them back on to hopefully out on the streets perhaps, you know, getting a job and contributing to society.

Brad Smith: And, and you mentioned these conversations, uh, that you're having. Are they primarily between states that have already moved forward with legalization whether medicinally or on [OVERLAPPING] the recreational side or are there states that have not legalized yet that are also being involved in these conversations?

John Hickenlooper: So, the states that are just kind of getting their toe in the water, I have fewer conversations with them. It's mostly states that, uh, have legalized it or were just about to legalize it. And [NOISE] you know, when that happens, it's amazing the complexity of the regulatory process to do it right, uh, takes up far more time than anybody imagines. So, the sooner you can start on it, what I tell each of the states also is, if your states legalizing it, get a baseline of data. Right? Start measuring, if you have highway fatalities, that are clearly as a result of driver error, in the old days, we would just check for alcohol, and maybe check for if there is marijuana that's been in the system. You know, even at very low levels, which doesn't mean, It could be 30 days old. Now, we're arguing that you should ta- check and really measure how much marijuana was in their blood because it is diagnostic in terms of whether it would, would co- contribute to the impairment of that driver. And that's kind of database baseline. You want to see if we're having more accidents than we did before once we've legalized recreational marijuana. And, and I don't think we see that in, in Colorado, but there are, there's conflicting data.

Baker Machado: Governor, let's talk and switch gears about Amazon. Since the last time we talked to you, uh, you, Denver, your home town, listed as one of the 20 cities getting- potentially on the shortlist to get the second headquarters for Amazon, but you had a really funny quote about this. You actually said, "you wouldn't cry if Amazon didn't pick Denver." [LAUGHTER] Do you still hold that same perspective, and why do you not think that Amazon would be a perfect fit in Denver?

John Hickenlooper: Well, you know, I was making a joke and that's, you know, I should know better. [LAUGHTER] So, my staff said there is never- it's never- it's never a great distance from my foot to my mouth. But, that somebody told me when I was, you know, being considered to be a VP candidate with Hillary they said, "Well, if you get chosen by the candid- candidate to run into and be her, her partner in a campaign like that you have a patriotic responsibility to do it, if she chooses someone else be grateful." [OVERLAPPING] That was the kind of the joke. And I said, you know, there's so much work involved if you've chosen to host Amazon's second headquarters. My goodness, the amount of infrastructure and all that I said, "Well, if they choose someone else, you know, in some ways it would be a relief." That was meant as kind of light-hearted. The one thing that's good about Amazon is they understand, they're committed. They know there's going to be a lot of growing pains, if they come to, uh, a community with this larger project, and they are committed as a culture, as a company, to help that wherever they end up, to help them deal with those growing pains. And what is it? Is it transit? Is it more bike trails and more, you know, pedestrian and biking to work [OVERLAPPING] or more recycling? All those things, they are committed to saying, we- we'll help and we could provide technology that will help. So, it was a joke. We were- we would still welcome Amazon with open arms and look forward to that partnership.

Brad Smith: That said, how do you think Amazon stacks up against the other 19 finalists? And perhaps has this opened up other opportunities for major businesses to identify some of the great things that you just mentioned about Colorado, about Denver, and what that could mean for their business as well?

John Hickenlooper: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's a great opportunity to talk about, you know, Colorado is probably the most collaborative place. We did our- when we funded our transit system, we got 34 out of 34 mayors. Republicans and Democrats suppo- supported a four tenths of a cent sales tax increase to build 120 new mi- 122 miles of new track. No other metropolitan area has done that, and now we get to talk about that, let people know we went from 14th in job creation to first. You know, the lowest, last summer, we had the lowest unemployment in the history of the country. Those were all great things to get out there. So, even if Amazon doesn't choose Colorado, which I think they'd be making a mistake, uh, but if they choose someone else, we still benefit, I think by being able to showcase things that a lot of- you know, a lot of people aren't aware of really.

Baker Machado: Governor, really quickly I know you're big Broncos fan. Any chance the Broncos get Kirk Cousins [LAUGHTER] this year?

John Hickenlooper: You- I don't know. And again that's- there's a lot of, you know, pretty much every time you're in a bar or listen to, you're at the coffee machine in the mornings, that's one of the main topics of [LAUGHTER] conversation, I know. I mean, that football game last year, you know, somebody, you know, I spent mine up until I was a teenager. I, I grew up in Philadelphia. So I had a little Super [APPLAUSE] Bowl party. If the Bronc- if the Broncos weren't going to be in the game, uh, I was paying attention to the Eagles, and we had, uh, we had people jumping, I mean, doing somersaults last night, they were so excited. [LAUGHTER] Pretty, pretty great game. And it's, the only time is gonna be greater is when the Broncos come back, and whether it's with Ki- Kirk Cousins or somebody else, [OVERLAPPING] I know that the Broncos have that. They have that defense, they're ready to get a good quarterback [OVERLAPPING] in and rejoin the elite.

Baker Machado: Yes, exactly. We'll [LAUGHTER] take the Eagles and the Broncos in a Super Bowl next year. Governor Hickenlooper always a pleasure. [LAUGHTER] Thank you so much sir, have a good rest of the day.

John Hickenlooper: You bet. Good to see you.