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
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
"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
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
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
(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.
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Change The Climate
The 'Virtues' of Pot
Pot Backers Try Again
Controversial Pot Billboard Goes Up