- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

DENVER — If Coloradans vote to legalize marijuana statewide next week, it will be almost entirely because of the efforts of a pudgy, clean-shaven 24-year-old University of Richmond graduate.

Mason Tvert, campaign manager for Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation, has pushed Colorado to the forefront of the marijuana movement, first with his successful 2004 Denver campaign and now with the statewide Amendment 44.

The amendment would allow people 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. If approved, it would make Colorado the first state to decriminalize marijuana.

It’s a lofty goal for a campaign that, as Mr. Tvert describes it, consists of “two guys in a rental car.” Mr. Tvert is running the effort from his cell phone and laptop, but that doesn’t mean his opponents aren’t taking him seriously.

Federal drug czar John P. Walters visited Colorado three times this year to denounce the effort, which almost every state lawmaker opposes. What Mr. Tvert brings to the table are energy, imagination, a knack for attracting free press and relentless tactics.

A case in point was an anti-Amendment 44 press conference Friday at the state capitol. Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and other state officials were expecting to address reporters on the dangers of pot, but instead were bombarded by more than 100 marijuana advocates, led by Mr. Tvert, chanting slogans and waving green campaign signs.

The protesters tried to drown out Mr. Owens and other speakers with jeers such as “Lie louder, Bill.” A frustrated Mr. Owens finally responded, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a sad day for Colorado.”

Attorney General John Suthers chided Mr. Tvert for interrupting the governor’s message. “I thought his behavior was reprehensible,” he said.

Whether such tactics will Mr. Tvert him any votes is debatable. A Denver Post poll showed Amendment 44 trailing 57 percent to 34 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Mr. Tvert, who is counting on a big turnout from students after his campus voter-registration drives, said his supporters aren’t easily reached on land lines. What is clear is that Mr. Tvert has hit a chord with his primary message: Alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana, and therefore, marijuana should be legalized.

His message is backed by personal experience. He said that the summer before entering the University of Richmond, he drank himself unconscious during a concert and woke up in the emergency room.

He wasn’t cited or punished, even though he was underage. He was subpoenaed later to testify against a fellow student who had been arrested for marijuana possession.

“What it shows is that our government’s priorities on drug education are so skewed,” Mr. Tvert said. “Have you ever seen a government committee warning that you could die of drinking? No. But I’ve seen plenty of commercials telling people they could ruin their lives smoking pot.”


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