SAFER's Mason Tvert on medical marijuana, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and a weed poll on the rise

It's already been a big week in marijuana. Yesterday, the Obama administration issued new, less strident rules about medical-marijuana, prompting Colorado Attorney General and anti-pot crusader John Suthers to demand tighter regulations on dispensaries. Meanwhile, 44 percent of respondents to a new Gallup poll advocated legalization of marijuana across the board. Granted, 54 percent still opposed it -- but the legalize-it numbers are up 8 percent in just four years.

All of which gives Mason Tvert -- head of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation) and the driving force behind a 2005 measure legalizing small amounts of marijuana in Denver -- plenty to talk about. And talk he does. About Suthers, for instance, Tvert says, "It's unfortunate that he's meddling in the healthcare decisions between doctors and patients. We hope that he will respect the voters of this state and the decisions being made by patients and doctors in accordance with state law."

Suthers believes Amendment 20, which opened up the door to medical marijuana in Colorado, is too loosely written. In response, Tvert argues that "there's nothing more vague about it than most other laws. Various laws are vague. But there was recently a report released showing that Colorado was one of only a handful of states where prescription drugs outnumber traffic accidents as the number one cause of unintentional death. John Suthers' time would be much better served investigating that than investigating a drug that's never killed anyone in history.

"There are millions of Americans who believe marijuana should be made legal for a variety of purposes, and perhaps the most egregious scenario in which it's illegal is for those who use it for medical purposes," Tvert continues. "That's why there's 75-percent-plus support for medical marijuana nationwide."

As for the suggestion by Suthers and those who support his position that the medical-marijuana movement is really a stealth tactic intended to promote broader legalization, Tvert says, "I don't think there's any kind of scheme. The modern medical-marijuana movement was pioneered by AIDS and cancer and MS patients. Does John Suthers think Purdue Pharma was scheming to make Oxycontin legal when they developed it? Or did they just think it was something people could benefit from? If John Suthers is really concerned about the health of Coloradans, he'd be concerned about the fact that there seems to be a liquor store on every corner and pharmacies all over the state filling prescriptions that are leading to the deaths of people here. But instead, he's obsessed with a substance that's never led to a single death."

Of course, Tvert wants people who aren't ill to be able to legally smoke marijuana, too. By focusing only on the substance's medicinal uses, then, "it makes it seem like a substance that should necessitate a doctor's recommendation. But for the millions of Americans who enjoy using it, they don't feel the need for a doctor's recommendation any more than people who want to drink a glass of beer or a shot of whiskey do. I think more and more people are realizing, or growing up understanding, that marijuana is a relatively benign substance that also happens to have many medical benefits, and ought to be available for those who need it or wish to use it."

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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

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