Marijuana: Amendment 64's Mason Tvert on Bill Maher's invite, advocate advice

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During a recent appearance on his HBO discussion show, Bill Maher asked Mason Tvert, one of the primary proponents behind Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, to relocate in California and push through a similar measure there -- and Tvert lightheartedly said he would; see the video below. Days later, however, Tvert tells us he has no plans to move west or barnstorm the country to boost legalization efforts in other states.

"There has been discussion among activists and organizations for the past couple of years about how best to move forward in California," says Tvert, referring to the 2010 defeat of Proposition 19, arguably the most high-profile statewide legalization proposal prior to Amendment 64. "But there's no specific plan, and I have no intention of moving."

Has Tvert been bombarded by calls from pot reformers in other states since A64's resounding victory? "You're giving me way too much credit," Tvert says. He acknowledges that he's received a steady stream of outreach on the topic in the week-plus since the election, but "not any more than I have every month for the past seven years" -- when his organization, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), backed the Alcohol Marijuana-Equalization Initiative, aka Initiative 100, in Denver. The measure was approved by the city's voters by a 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent margin in November 2005, instantly making Tvert a star of the U.S.cannabis legalization movement.

But while Tvert notes that "local activists have been getting in touch to find out what they can do in their areas and how they can be most effective," he makes it clear that he hasn't created a blueprint for electoral success that can be easily replicated everywhere.

"I don't know if your'e talking about franchising a campaign -- but that's like saying Barack Obama is going to franchise his campaign to other presidential candidates," he says. "A lot of people who worked on this campaign have valuable insights that would be beneficial in future campaigns," but he doesn't believe they can't be boiled down to a formula.

A key Amendment 64 campaign theme involved the argument in favor of reallocating police and prosecutorial resources from marijuana offenses to more serious, violent crimes. But Tvert doesn't consider it to be a fresh new tactic.

"That's been said for the last thirty or forty years," he points out. "So I wouldn't see that as any kind of unique campaign strategy."

In his view, then, the key to Amendment 64's passage was the message he's preached since Initiative 100 -- marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol.

Continue to read more of our interview with Mason Tvert. "I've co-authored a book about that," says Tvert, nodding to Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink?, which he penned with NORML's Paul Armentano and the Marijuana Policy Project's Steve Fox, who's credited with helping to shape A64's language. "That's the only theory I think is going to be relevant across the board in any locality or state. It's imperative that voters understand marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. Other than that, I think a campaign would depend on any number of other factors."

At this point, the volume of contacts from the national media is already winding down, Tvert says, with a recent Rachel Maddow piece linking Amendment 64 to alcohol prohibition standing as an exception. Yet he feels "it's going to continue to be something discussed by the media at the national and state and local levels, and that's a good thing."

As for Tvert's plans for the immediate future, they'll continue to focus on Amendment 64. "I'm still working on this effort," he says. "It's not done yet."

An example: Yesterday, Tvert issued a release on behalf of his fellow Amendment 64 proponents asking that prosecutors in Colorado stop filing cases involving adult marijuana possession, as Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett has done.

Continue to see the Amendment 64 release calling for DAs to stop pursuing adult marijuana possession prosecutions and Mason Tvert's appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. Amendment 64 campaign release:

Backers of Amendment 64 Call on Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and Other Colorado Prosecutors to Follow the Will of the Voters and Stop Filing Cases of Adult Marijuana Possession

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett follows lead of district attorneys in Washington State and dismisses all pending cases in which the sole charge is possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an adult 21 or older

DENVER -- Proponents of Amendment 64, the successful statewide initiative to make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it like alcohol, are calling on Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and other Colorado prosecutors to follow the will of the voters by no longer filing cases of adult marijuana possession and dismissing all pending cases in which the sole charge is possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by an adult 21 or older.

Earlier today, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett announced via Facebook that his office will "dismiss all pending possession of MJ less than an ounce, and MJ paraphenalia cases, for defendants over the age of 21," noting that cases of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol remain a top priority. On Friday, prosecutors in Washington's largest counties announced they would be dropping more than 200 pending cases of marijuana possession in light of voters' adoption of a similar marijuana initiative in last week's election. Read more at: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/crime/article/King-Pierce-counties-dropping-marijuana-cases-4024415.php

Amendment 64 backers are spotlighting Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey because the bulk of Colorado marijuana possession arrests occur in Denver, and the city's voters have passed multiple initiatives intended to stop the arrest and prosecution of adults 21 and older for private marijuana possession. Specifically, they approved a local ballot initiative in 2005 that removed all penalties for adult possession under city ordinance, and in 2007 they adopted a measure that established adult possession as the city's lowest law enforcement priority. Morrissey refused to stop the prosecutions, citing the state's law against marijuana possession.

"A strong majority of Coloradans made it clear that they do not believe adults should be made criminals for possessing small amounts of marijuana," said Mason Tvert, a proponent of Amendment 64. "Colorado prosecutors can follow the will of the voters by dropping these cases today and announcing they are no longer taking on new ones.

"We applaud District Attorney Garnett for respecting the will of the voters, and we hope his colleagues across the state will follow his lead," Tvert said. "We do not see why District Attorney Morrissey or any other prosecutor would want to continue seeking criminal penalties for conduct that will be legal in the next month or so."

Amendment 64 was approved 55-45 in last week's election. The law officially takes effect upon certification of the election. Certification of the election must take place within 30 days of the final election canvass, which must be finalized within 30 days of the election.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64: Feds will threaten lawsuit or arrests to stop implementation, predicts DU prof."

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