Mason Tvert has made quite a name for himself in Colorado as the most outspoken drug activist since Hunter Thompson. Tvert has been behind two ballot initiatives in recent years seeking to legalize marijuana, first in Denver (which passed) and then statewide (which failed). He’s trying a new ballot measure in Denver because even though he succeeded in getting voter approval to legalize weed, it didn’t supersede state and federal laws. As the Rocky Mountain News reports:

Denver voters will have the final say on whether the city should change its marijuana laws, but that didn’t stop several City Council members from accusing pot activists of turning city elections into a farce.

“You’re trying to make a joke out of the electoral process in Denver,” said Councilwoman Carol Boigan. “I think this is aimed at street theater and capturing media attention.”

The council voted unanimously Monday to refer to voters a ballot initiative that would direct Denver police to make the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana “the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.” Backers of the proposed ordinance turned in several thousand signatures to earn a spot on the November ballot.

Council members made it clear they believe the proposal will have little effect even if it passes, since state law bans marijuana possession. Even those who favor changing the nation’s drug laws have found fault with the measure…

…Proponents of the ballot measure said they don’t dispute that marijuana can harm some people, but said liquor is far more dangerous, and yet the council approved a contract with Coors Brewing Co. to sell beer at the Colorado Convention Center.

“Alcohol leads to countless crimes in this city,” said Mason Tvert, director of Safer Colorado, sponsor of the ballot initiative. “What message do you send when you hold hands with Coors?”

I give Tvert a lot of credit for his tenacity on this issue, but as I’ve written before, he’s just not going to get anywhere until he takes a more strategic approach. Tvert’s primary message for marijuana legalization has always been that weed is safer than alcohol (hence his group’s acronym, SAFER), but that’s a stupid rationale for anything. Should I eat 10 pounds of chocolate a day because it’s safer than eating asbestos? At one point in a debate last year about the statewide marijuana initiative, Tvert actually suggested that weed is safer than Tylenol because Tylenol kills tens of thousands of people a year.

Tvert is completely obsessed with this idea that because marijuana (may or may not) be safer than alcohol, it should be legal. This is what he sent out in a press release today:

Today’s edition of the Denver Daily News reported that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and a handful of Denver City Council members have used marijuana in the past. The article (aptly titled “Hypocrisy on pot?”) also included a variety of responses from the Mayor and the Council members to the latest initiative moving toward the upcoming ballot in Denver, which would create a new city ordinance designating adult marijuana possession the City’s lowest law enforcement priority. The article is available at

Mayor Hickenlooper said, “I made personal choices when I was younger that I neither support nor condone for others and certainly wouldn’t encourage through public policy.”

The Mayor showed no remorse, however, for his personal choices when he was older to support, condone, and encourage through public policy the use of alcohol, a drug our government has concluded is more deadly and addictive than marijuana.

“I have to wonder how many fights or car accidents occurred because people had a little too much to drink at the Mayor’s brewpub,” said Citizens for a Safer Denver spokesman Mason Tvert. “Or how many people stumbled out of there before vomiting all over Wynkoop Street. It seems odd that the mayor is so apologetic for using marijuana in college without any negative consequences, yet he has no apologies for pushing alcohol on people and arresting them if they make the safer choice to use marijuana instead.”

The safer choice is to not use alcohol or marijuana, not to encourage people to smoke weed instead of drinking beer, but Tvert just keeps beating his head against the wall with this relatively worthless message. It reminds me of a child begging his mother to let him do something dangerous because, “Billy’s mom lets him do it.” That’s not a reason.

Keep in mind that I say this as someone who is in favor of legalizing marijuana. I think it is stupid for us to continue to incarcerate people in overcrowded prisons for petty marijuana offenses when we could be legalizing pot and regulating its use. I don’t know if marijuana is safer than alcohol or healthier than eating lead paint, and I don’t care – that’s never going to be the issue for me or for many other people. Because something is comparatively less dangerous than something else isn’t a good rationale for doing it, and it never will be. You’d think Tvert would have learned that lesson when his statewide initiative went down in flames (or up in smoke) last November.

It’s hard to take Tvert seriously when he advocates his position with this silly message of “relative levels of unsafety.” It’s also hard to take him seriously when he continues to push ballot measures that won’t do anything. The current proposal in Denver asks law enforcement officials to make weed busts their lowest priority in Denver, even though possession is still illegal by superseding state and federal laws. It’s yet another message that doesn’t make sense: We should ignore the law. You can try to change the law if you want, but you can’t ask police to ignore it.

I think legalizing marijuana is a good idea, and I think you could get voters to agree with you. But in order to do that, you have to take an approach that is more logically sound and less open to ridicule. Tvert is like the football coach who calls the same play 20 downs in a row but can’t understand why he isn’t getting in the endzone. If it IS broke, you should fix it.