Imagine walking into a store on a Friday night, browsing through the isles and choosing an ounce of your favorite brand of marijuana.
This is a scenario that Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), said he would like to see become a reality when he spoke to students and members of the community on Thursday night in the Lory Student Center Theatre.
“We are pushing for legalization of marijuana and we’re not afraid to say it,” Tvert told the group of about 60 people. “It makes no sense to punish people for making a rational choice when it comes to partying.”
Most speakers addressed the ballot initiative SAFER has been working to get signatures for that would make treatment of marijuana similar to alcohol in Colorado. If this initiative were to pass, people in the state would be able to possess one ounce of marijuana, or less, legally if over 21 years old.
“We need to get people to stop being fearful of marijuana and start treating it like alcohol,” Tvert said.
In this case, Tvert said he would like to see marijuana regulated and taxed in the same way alcohol is, too. Vincente said taxing marijuana would bring in an additional $81 million in tax revenue to the state if the initiative were to pass.
But, all other laws, including the federal ban of drugs, including marijuana, would remain. Supporters also said that they would want statewide legalization, but individual cities would be able to make its own decisions.
Tvert was one of four speakers at the rally: Travis Nicks, the state chair of the Libertarian Party; Nancy York, leader of the Poudre Valley Green Party; and Brian Vincente; executive director of Sensible Colorado, an advocacy group which supports treating drug use as a medical issue, and not a criminal one.
During the rally Tvert said he estimated that they have gathered about 10,000 to 15,000 signatures around the state. Seth Anthony, chairman of the CSU Libertarian Party and a CSU graduate student, announced that they had gathered 1,002 signatures on campus to date. He said their goal is to get more than the 2,536 signatures they got last year from the SAFER-sponsored petition asking on the administration to loosen penalties for students caught with pot.
“There’s a strong base of support for marijuana reform in Fort Collins,” Vincente said. He said he has seen students on CSU’s and other campuses are more excited about voting on this issue than others like gay marriage.
The speakers said they found they have gotten the best response from college students in this campaign.
But, not all students are showing support. Some students did not feel very strongly on the matter because they said the proposed law would not affect them, so they didn’t really care.
Ashley Blocton, a sophomore psychology major, said she wasn’t bothered by the suggestion of legalization, she just said she hoped it wouldn’t be smoked in public places.
Other students, like Minda Johnson, a sophomore health and exercise science major, said she didn’t think the initiative was worth it if it was still illegal according to federal law.
But, Tvert said the federal government only handles about 1 percent of marijuana cases. He also said he has no intentions to try to alter the federal law.
“This is not a federal issue, this is a local and state issue,” he said.
Tvert and York both admitted to smoking marijuana. Tvert, 24, said he even smoked with three of his grandparents because they were curious after all the discussion about legalization. In November Tvert and SAFER gained attention for Initiative 100, which made Denver the first city in the nation to eliminate all penalties for adults caught with under an ounce of pot.
He said smoking with them was wild, but that it is also important to show the number of different people who smoke marijuana.
“I, as someone who chooses to use marijuana, don’t think I should be persecuted for it,” Tvert said.
Others noted that it was their right to choose what people put into their own bodies.
“You were given the right to smoke pot when you were born,” said Nicks, another speaker.
Nicks and other speakers said they believe that part of the problem is that current political officials, even those in the Associated Students of CSU, are unwilling to take a stance on marijuana reform.
SAFER needs 68,000 signatures to get their initiative on the ballot. Tvert said he hopes the group will be able to hold other rallies as the year goes on. Anthony, whose campus Libertarian group organized the event with CSU Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said they plan to continue to take signatures outside the Lory Student Center Plaza.
During the rally, booths were set up outside the theatre doors with voter registration, SAFER petitions and pipes available for sale.
Tvert remains optimistic; many of the speakers’ comments were met with clapping and cheers, but some students remain apathetic.
Tim Johnston, a sophomore open option business major said he smoked before he came to the rally and signed the petition, but would not get involved any further than that.
“I don’t think the law will affect my usage at all,” he said.
But, Tvert continues his campaign with SAFER committed, win or lose.
“If we’re gonna fail and we’re gonna err, then we’re going to err on the side of revolution.”
Vimal Patel contributed to this story.
Sara Crocker and Vimal Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.