Cannabis News



SAFER Could Still Be Smarter

Kayvan Khalatbari, right, holds a sign from SAFER,
which collected enough signatures to put measure I-100
on the Nov. 1 ballot.

Post ~ Glen Martin


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Source: Denver Post (CO)
Author:  David Harsanyi, Denver Post Staff Columnist
Published: Monday, October 24, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The Denver Post Corp
Contact: [email protected]

Colorado -- Initiative 100 has caused quite a stir in recent weeks.

And though I am sympathetic to the aims of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), there is a fundamental flaw in the campaign's logic that simply can't be overlooked. But more about that later.

If I-100 passes, Denver would be the first city - other than a couple of college towns like Ann Arbor and Berkeley - to decriminalize recreational pot, making it legal for anyone 21 or older to possess an ounce or less of marijuana.

Should Americans have the liberty to be listless pods, spending all their disposable income on trail mix and bootleg Phish CDs, if they so choose? I think so.

Well, as long as they don't force me to listen to Phish.

So far, SAFER has done an admirable job of whipping up the controversy - and with it, media coverage - with signs that read "Make Denver Safer. "

"Critics say that our signs are misleading," Mason Tvert, director of SAFER, tells me. "Yet, every day, I see signs in favor of Referendums C and D that read 'Move Colorado Forward.' ... Clearly, around 49 percent of Coloradoans disagree that C and D would move Colorado forward. Aren't those signs misleading?"

They sure are. But "Vote Yes on the biggest tax increase in the history of Colorado!" would find as much traction as a billboard that read "Vote no! Screw roads; we have SUVs!"

Show me an honest campaign and I'll show you a losing one.

You would think proposing the legalization of pot would be provocative enough, but SAFER has made sure to antagonize our pious city leaders even further.

"Our city council opponents continually argue that I-100 is 'useless' because state law supersedes city law," Tvert says. "Like many drug warriors, they are trying to discourage people from voting for it by arguing their vote is futile."

One furious city council member, according to Tvert, was so upset he began yanking out I-100 yard signs all around the city. Democracy at work.

Outrage over campaign tactics recently persuaded SAFER to switch a billboard picturing a woman's battered face to one reading: "Alcohol use makes domestic violence 8 times more likely ... Marijuana use does not. Vote yes on I-100."

But in truth, I-100's problem is not campaign dishonesty, it's intellectual dishonesty.

By masking a policy debate about marijuana and transforming it into a bogus argument about safety, SAFER does a disservice to voters and those who believe in legalized pot.

"It's our position that if this passes," Tvert explains, "and less people use alcohol, we would have less problems. If one person decided to use pot instead of alcohol and doesn't beat up his wife or drive, it's worth it."

Actually it's not. In fact, if we use SAFER's line of reasoning, government would be out there promoting quaaludes, heroin and sleeping pills - all less likely to spark domestic violence than whiskey.

Ironically, SAFER is advancing arguments against personal responsibility. They are admonishing alcohol in rhetoric suspiciously similar to that used by drug warriors about pot.

But there is hope.

At the age of 23, Tvert's shown great passion and skill as a campaigner.

He successfully ran initiative campaigns at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, where they overwhelmingly approved SAFER-sponsored nonbinding referendums to lighten penalties for marijuana.

(OK, I conceded that persuading college students to endorse recreational drug use is about as momentous as convincing toddlers to officially make chocolate ice cream a "healthy food.")

Yet, despite the flaws of this campaign, I hope Tvert comes back with a more candid and vigorous initiative in the future.

If you believe in more individual freedom, you may still feel comfortable voting for I-100. But don't fall for SAFER's wobbly logic.

David Harsanyi's column appears Monday and Thursday.

Related Articles & Web Sites:

Safer Choice

Change The Climate

The 'Virtues' of Pot

Pot Backers Try Again

Controversial Pot Billboard Goes Up




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