Marijuana advocate Mason Tvert calls for the ouster of Ernie Martinez, his Denver pot-panel colleague

In many ways the friction between Mason Tvert, head of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) and Lieutenant Ernie Martinez, head of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association (CDIA), personifies the ongoing clash between law enforcement and marijuana activists.

While the two both sit on the mayor-appointed Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, they're far from chums. Last month, for example, Tvert demanded a boycott of Starbucks after he noticed the coffee chain appeared to be a sponsor on CDIA's website. (Starbucks apparently relented, and right now the CDIA's website is down).

Now Tvert's launched another broadside across Martinez's bow. SAFER is calling on Mayor Hickenlooper to pull Martinez from the city's marijuana panel, based on a 2006 CDIA letter penned by Martinez that compares marijuana legalization advocates to cancer.

The letter, which introduces a CDIA position paper on marijuana legalization, states:

Those who want to legalize drugs weaken our collective struggle against this scourge of our society. Like a cancer, proponents for legalization eat away at society's resolve and moral fiber. The marijuana-drug legalization movement has nothing to offer users and addicts but more drugs.

"It's just very clear that this individual has no interest in working towards what the people want," says Tvert, noting that a recent internal poll found that half of likely voters statewide and two-thirds of those in Denver support making marijuana legal. "And if Hickenlooper is going to represent the people of Colorado, he has to take a stand on this. [Martinez] should not be in a position where he's influencing policy on this issue."

Martinez, for his part, says the campaign to give him the boot is hardly worth a comment, since his role on the city's Denver Marijuana Policy Review panel and his position at the CDIA are "two totally different things." He stands by his opinion of marijuana, however. "When you look at how drug abuse ruins the lives of different people, it's a tough deal, and I think Mason would agree that marijuana use is addictive," he says. "He has agreed to that in a public forum, and when you put another addictive drug on the streets, it makes it tough for society."

This particular clash may come to a head next Tuesday, when the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel meets at the Denver City and County Building at 3:30 for its regular meeting. "We hope to see a response from the mayor sometime before then," says Tvert. There's another bit of important business up for consideration at the meeting, too: The City Attorney's Office is scheduled to present 2009 statistics on adults cited or arrested for marijuana possession in 2009.

In other words, get ready for more fireworks.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner