Marijuana legalization: Mason Tvert blasts John Hickenlooper and politicos who dodge issue

At this hour, SAFER's Mason Tvert is slated to hold a press conference at the Denver City and County Building to highlight his pro-marijuana outfit's first-ever voter guides -- and to bash Mayor John Hickenlooper for what Tvert sees as his backwards stance on weed. But at least Hickenlooper's addressed the topic, unlike many other politicos.

"We're really highlighting the fact that Mayor Hickenlooper continues to oppose reforming marijuana laws despite the fact that he has made a fortune selling a far more harmful substance," Tvert says, referring to Hickenlooper's previous career as a tavern owner. "It's time he explained what's going on."

Does that mean Tvert will encourage people to vote for Tom Tancredo, a gubernatorial candidate who's in favor of marijuana legalization? Not exactly.

"We're not endorsing any candidates," he emphasizes. "We're simply highlighting their positions on the issue. But Tom Tancredo has certainly been very forthright in his support for reforming marijuana laws, as has the Libertarian candidate [Jaimes Brown]. It's unfortunate that Mayor Hickenlooper, who hails from Denver, the city that was the first in the nation to remove all penalties for marijuana possession, is behind the times."

Other officials and political hopefuls appear to be in denial, judging by SAFER's voter guides. (Click on the appropriate links to access the candidate survey for governor, the candidate survey for senate, the first candidate survey for the house and a second house candidate survey.)

"We asked all the candidates where they stand on the subject of regulating marijuana and treating it like alcohol," Tvert notes. "We received a lot of good responses back from a lot of legislators, but we didn't receive any from far too many -- and that's just unacceptable.

"We went out of our way to make it as easy as possible. It was a one-question survey -- probably the shortest candidate survey in history -- and we gave them ample time. First, we mailed them the form and provided a return envelope and a stamp. Then we followed up with e-mails and phone calls. But we still, unfortunately, had a lot of people who were unwilling to share their opinions on the subject -- and that's just unacceptable."

They might not be able to remain silent for much longer -- particularly if California's Proposition 19, a cannabis legalization measure touted at a recent Denver rally, becomes law. Right now, Tvert believes the vote in Cali is too close to call, but either way, "we're very likely to see marijuana on the Colorado ballot in 2012, and we want to know where our elected officials stand."

Look below to read the press release about today's event:

Marijuana Advocates to Blast Former Booze-Dealing Gubernatorial Candidate Hickenlooper Over Hypocritical Opposition to Marijuana Reform

As mail ballots go out, SAFER releases non-partisan voter guide -- thumbs down on Hick, thumbs up on Garnett and several state legislative candidates

Majority of candidates -- and most incumbents -- refuse to answer one-question survey on whether marijuana should be made legal and regulated similarly to alcohol

SAFER to discuss survey results at news conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. in front of the Denver City-County Building

DENVER -- Colorado's largest marijuana advocacy organization will hold a news conference in front of the Denver City-County Building on Wednesday, October 13, at 11 a.m., to discuss the results of the first-ever marijuana-specific Colorado voter guide. The event, which will occur just as voters begin receiving their mail-in ballots, is being coordinated by the SAFER Voter Education Fund (SVEF), the social welfare lobbying arm of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER).

At the news conference, advocates will blast gubernatorial frontrunner and former alcohol dealer John Hickenlooper for continuing to oppose the legalization and regulation of a far safer substance -- marijuana. The group will also praise attorney general Stan Garnett, as well as several other state lawmakers, for supporting a system of marijuana regulation similar to that of alcohol.

"Mayor Hickenlooper owes Colorado voters an explanation," said SAFER Voter Education Fund Executive Director Mason Tvert. "In the five years since his city became the first in the nation to remove all penalties for adult marijuana possession he has yet to explain why it was okay for him to make a fortune selling alcohol, yet it should be a crime for adults to use a far safer substance instead. "The Democratic candidate to become the state's next top law enforcer agrees that marijuana should be regulated and treated similarly to alcohol," Tvert said. "Why does the Democratic gubernatorial candidate disagree?"

Along with the gubernatorial and attorney general candidates, every candidate for the Colorado State Legislature received the one-question survey, which asked: Do you agree with the following policy statement excliusively as it appears below:

Marijuana should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol, and adults twenty-one (21) years of age and older should NOT be subject to criminal penalties for private use and possession of up to one (1) ounce of marijuana.

The majority of candidates -- including most incumbents -- failed or refused to respond to the one-question survey despite having more than a month to do so.

"Those candidates who failed to respond to the survey ought to be embarrassed," Tvert said. "Either they're too scared to publicize their viewpoint or they were unable to take the time out of their campaigns to complete a one-question survey on a major political issue."

Of note, several incumbent legislators responded to the survey indicating their support for making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol, including Democratic State Senator Pat Steadman, Democratic State Reps. Mark Ferrandino, Jeanne Labuda, Debbie Benefield, and Joe Miklosi, and Republican State Rep. Larry Liston.

SAFER and the SVEF coordinated the 2006 statewide legalization initiative in Colorado and the two successful citywide marijuana initiatives in Denver. The organizations have also announced plans to pursue a statewide initiative in 2012 that would remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana possession and establish a system of regulation that would treat marijuana similarly as alcohol.

WHAT: News conference to discuss first-ever marijuana-specific Colorado voter guide

WHEN: Wednesday, October 13 @ 11 a.m.

WHERE: In front of the Denver City-County Building, 1437 Bannock St., Denver

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts