Move over, Cheech and Chong: The two most important people in Colorado's marijuana scene are Brian Vicente and Mason Tvert -- and they're out to prove it by passing a statewide initiative in 2012 that will legalize marijuana for all Coloradans over 21.
Vicente and Tvert unveiled the plan last Monday at their marijuana-reform "Thanksgiving celebration" at the Gilmore Art Center at Mile High Framing -- and they admit there's a lot of work ahead before Colorado sanctions (as well as regulates and taxes) recreational marijuana use. After all, just three years ago, state voters rejected by a 60/40 margin a constitutional amendment organized by Vicente, Tvert and others that would have decriminalized just an ounce or less of weed.
But like Bob says, the times, they are a-changin'. Earlier this month, Breckenridge voters decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of pot, following in Denver's footsteps, which passed a similar measure in 2005. A Gallup poll last month found that 44 percent of Americans favor legalization, up from 31 percent in 2000. The same poll found that just in the West, the percentage rose to 53 percent.
There are efforts underway to legalize weed in California next year, but if that fails, Colorado could end up leading the legalization movement nationwide -- and it's hard to imagine a duo better suited to the task than Vicente and Tvert. While the two helm different drug-reform organizations -- Vicente runs Sensible Colorado and Tvert leads SAFER (Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation) -- it's no accident the two share an office space and are both funded by the venerable Washington D.C.-based organization Marijuana Policy Project. In the war against the war on drugs, Vicente and Tvert are coordinating their attacks with a two-front offensive.
Lately, Vicente, a lawyer, has spent most of his time lately guiding the state's medical-marijuana community -- assisting on pivotal court cases, consulting with dispensaries and meeting with policy makers. And on December 19 at a location yet to be announced, Sensible Colorado is hosting a medical-marijuana stakeholder meeting -- sort of a "gathering of the five families" à la The Godfather at which the state's captains of marijuana industry will try to craft a unified legislative agenda for 2010.
The work isn't just good business for Vicente. If Colorado's heady and booming medical-marijuana scene can avoid the pitfalls suffered in California and mature into a respectable and valid industry, that could do wonders for voters considering whether or not pot is worth legalizing.
Meanwhile Tvert has been busy launching college-campus-based reform initiatives and nationally promoting a book he co-authored, Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? He's armed with a simple but catchy concept: Marijuana is safer than alcohol. That's an idea that more and more people are agreeing to.
So Vicente is tackling the medical-marijuana front, while Tvert is handling recreational issues. When the dust settles, if all goes as planned, the state's marijuana prohibition will be up in smoke.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.