I co-directed the campaign in support of Amendment 64, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which Colorado voters approved 55-45 this past November. I am now the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, where I am working to change marijuana laws nationwide at the state and federal levels.

Comments: 2895 • Responses: 28  • Date: 

jnektarios1193 karma


MasonTvert627 karma

Just posted this to another question re: NC:

MPP just sent out this alert and action. Please share!


As you might have read or heard, a state representative in North Carolina killed a medical marijuana bill yesterday because he felt he and his colleagues were being “harassed” based on the volume of emails and calls they were receiving in support of the legislation.

This is unacceptable. Our democratic process depends on citizens reaching out to their elected representatives to let them know where their constituents stand on the issues. Not only is this type of civic engagement appropriate, it should be encouraged. If anything, such a high volume of calls and emails in support of the medical marijuana bill should be considered a sign that this is an issue worthy of public debate.

Please send a message to Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam asking him to apologize for equating calls and emails from constituents to being “harassed,” and requesting that he call for a hearing regarding medical marijuana.

Despite what Rep. Stam said, elected officials need to hear from their constituents. This is a perfect opportunity to let him know that, so please take action today.

Hound-dog-gone303 karma

Mr Tvert, with the current sway in public opinion on the subject of marijuana, do you have a (general) timeline that you are striving to fulfill on the full legalization front?

MasonTvert226 karma

I think support will grow exponentially as a result of the combination of:

1) more successful reform efforts occurring in more states and localities, which results in

2) more public discussion about the issue, which is what leads to people becoming more supportive of reform, then pair all that with

3) older, more conservative people dying and younger, more supportive people becoming the more consistent voters. This is a similar situation as marriage equality, in which there is just a natural tendency for younger people to be more supportive.

So, when will this result in full legalization? Can't say for sure. I do think that the November 2016 election will be another major milestone. By then we should have at least ≥20 medical marijuana states (+ DC) and at least 6 states will have made marijuana legal for adults (CO and WA + AK in 2014 + CA, OR, and ME in 2016, but hopefully more in 2016).

harmonoff281 karma

If marijuana was legalized nationwide would employers still be able to drug test and discriminate against marijuana users?

MasonTvert158 karma

It's a tough one. This stuff usually all gets hashed out in the courts.

Here's the example of Colorado...

There is a state law that says an employee cannot be fired for engaging in an activity that is legal when they are not on the job. There have been a couple cases in which medical marijuana patients have gone to court and have lost because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, thus it is not a legal activity covered by the state law. When marijuana becomes legal federally, that could change.

A64 in Colorado was essentially silent on employment and simply said nothing changes for employers.

Generally, private employers are not required to do testing for marijuana. The Federal Drug Free Workplace Act simply requires employers to 1) have a drug policy, and 2) have penalties for violations of that policy. It does not require employers to prohibit the use of marijuana outside of the workplace.

Ultimately, I think this is an issue that will play out culturally. Already, most employers do not do ongoing drug testing because they don't want to fire, re-hire, and potentially lose the more qualified people. It's expensive and sets them back. For many employers, if the person isn't doing it on the job and they're performing their job as necessary, there's no issue.

There are some issues that arise, however, when it comes to government employees and at businesses with federal contracts.

carlos_the_dwarf_246 karma

Do you support the legalization of all drugs? If no, what criteria do you use to draw the line?

MasonTvert686 karma

I think the problems we see with the prohibition of marijuana (and that we saw with the prohibition of alcohol) are also evident with prohibition of other drugs. I think it is important that we first recognize the differences between drugs. Marijuana is not the same as cocaine, cocaine is not the same as LSD, and so on. One of the biggest problems with U.S. drug policy is that it tries to treat all of these drugs the same.

When it comes to marijuana, it is a relatively benign substance that is far safer than alcohol and used in a relatively similar manner. Thus it should be treated that way. But that might not be how we should treat psychedelics. With growing research finding that psychedelics can be beneficial for some in a therapeutic setting, perhaps the direction we should take there is developing a system in which those products are legitimately produced and used in a controlled therapeutic setting. At the least, we shouldn't be treating consumers as criminals who should go to prison, and we should treat it as a public health issue. The same goes for other drugs like meth and heroin – should they be "legal," probably not. At least not in the sense that they're sold in stores to any adult who wants them. But should it be a crime that lands people in prison? No. That doesn't seem to be doing the job. Perhaps we could start treating this as a public health issue – and more and more places are beginning to do that – in which we focus on providing treatment and minimizing the harm associated with these products.

MasonTvert212 karma

I see there was some debate over the title of this post. Really? With this whole issue and all the questions surrounding it, that's what you're really digging into? OK, well, for what it's worth, I was told I should have a title that will get people's attention. I was one of the two official proponents who brought A64 forward, I was a director of the campaign, I directed the successful legalization initiative in Denver in 2005, the successful lowest priority initiative in Denver in 2007, I ran the 2006 leglaization initiative that received 41%, and I founded and ran the largest organization in the state dedicated to making marijuana legal. I thought perhaps I was justified in having "I legalized marijuana" in there instead of "I helped legalize marijuana," in which case many people might just assume it was someone who volunteered. I'm not one to try to take credit, and quite frankly, the title concerned me. But I used it to ensure people would know what's going on with this AMA. Sorry if that offended anyone.

roastedcomment192 karma

Sir, what is it you plan to do to get Texas onboard?

MasonTvert45 karma

Please see response to another question about TX

BloomZon189 karma

Why was it important to you to get marijuana legalized?

MasonTvert621 karma

I got into this issue because I think it is absolutely insane to be making people criminals and interrupting their lives simply because they use marijuana responsibly for their enjoyment or for its medical benefits. I was the target of a big marijuana-related investigation in college and, quite frankly, it pissed me off. I almost drank myself to death one night during my senior year of high school and when I woke up in the hospital, I was never asked a single time who sold/gave me enough liquor to almost kill myself. Yet, as a college student simply using (and not even selling) a little marijuana, I became the target of a big investigation and police from every level of government demanded to know where I was getting marijuana. It was insane.

Once I got more into the issue, I became more conscious of the many other problems surrounding marijuana prohibition, and I feel strongly about them. But overall, for me, it was a matter of justice/fairness and compassion on the medical side (I worked on medical marijuana for a few months before getting into the non-medical advocacy side).

mickey2k158 karma

I live in Colorado, currently enjoying Golden Goat. No question but just wanted to say, "Thanks."

MasonTvert76 karma

Thanks. Much appreciated.

al7bar54 karma

Do you think you will be able to change the nationwide marijuana law?

MasonTvert109 karma

Yes. But as I mentioned above, I think it will be a matter of states nationwide changing their laws, which will ultimately result in changes in federal law. The states will happen relatively quickly over the next 2-10 years. Hopefully we see momentum continue to grow at the federal level to accommodate those states.

jibmaster45 karma

Do you have any intentions on lobbying to make sure that local municipalities in Colorado honor Amendment 64 (counties that voted yes). Do you consider your work here done? I hate how a handfull of city councilmen can ban shops in counties that had voted yes on 64.

MasonTvert39 karma

While I am not working very much on implementation in CO, my colleagues and other local activists are. And they are doing everything they can to ensure the will of the voters is respected. For one thing, CO is a home-rule state, so localities already have a vast amount of control. But we also need to recognize that 1) localities decide for themselves how to handle alcohol (ie. we have a TON of "dry" counties nationwide where alcohol cannot be sold), and 2) people in any locality can possess and grow their own. It's simply a question of whether the localities want to allow businesses. I think the localities already acting to ban these new businesses are acting prematurely because they 1) don't even know what these businesses are going to end up looking like regulatory-wise, and 2) they couldn't possibly know where all their voters stand on the issue.

If local officials pass a measure banning, then the voters can bring the measure to the ballot or push their local officials to make the change. I think we'll see a steady stream of localities changing their tune over the course of the next few years. They will recognize that their citizens can use marijuana regardless of the bans, they will recognize that the businesses do not create problems, and they will recognize that these businesses are creating benefits (tax revenue, jobs, taking up empty retail space, providing business to ancillary businesses).

Measures like that proposed by Greenwood Village – which essentially seeks to ban possession and not just businesses – are definitely not legit and need to be stopped. Our team is working to do that and I am confident we'll be successful.

AnimalRevolution43 karma

Your guess: In what year will the majority (26/50) of US states have marijuana legalized?

MasonTvert41 karma

Tough one. The biggest issue is that only so many states have ballot initiatives available as a means of bringing about new marijuana laws. For example, if there were workable initiative processes in IL, NY, and a few other states, they'd have passed medical marijuana laws years ago. But they have to work through the legislatures and that takes much, much longer. So in order to reach 26, it would require a number of states to do it via the legislature, and I can't say that will happen in the very near future. The states that would most likely be among the first to pass legalization measures via their legislatures are RI, HI, VT, and NH. I think we will see a number of states pass measures via initiative between now and 2020, such as AK, CA, OR, ME, NV, MA, MT, and possibly some others.

MasonTvert39 karma

submitted earlier by Blaze_0f_Glory

What do you feel are the realistic chances of the current proposed bills that either federally legalize or respect state legalization?

MasonTvert44 karma

I think the bills recently introduced in Congress to regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level are going to take some time. They were largely inspired by the victories in CO and WA, and we are really seeing more momentum than ever before since those wins. I think more wins in the states will continue to build that momentum.

I mentioned earlier that we are hopeful the feds will work toward taking a more hands-off approach when it comes to states that pass legalization and medical laws. We need them to work with states to ensure voters are being respected and laws are being implemented as designed, while not frustrating federal interests. This is what we're seeing with CO and WA. State officials are providing the DOJ with information about how they plan to prevent diversion to other states and how they plan to ensure marijuana is being kept away from teens.

dustin_allan24 karma

What's your take on the failure to pass of the Oregon marijuana initiative?

MasonTvert43 karma

  1. It was not well-written and many people were concerned it would not be workable.

  2. There didn't appear to be adequate public support heading into the campaign. Polling wasn't as good as WA and CO.

  3. Add #1 and #2 together, and that means there isn't a lot of interest among donors, hence they did not raise the money that was needed to run the campaign that was needed.

It was a great effort though and the fact that it received 47% (I believe) demonstrates that there is a lot of support in Oregon and it's only a matter of time before they do pass a legalization initiative. I am fairly confident that will occur in 2016.

MasonTvert23 karma

Okay, folks. I'm afraid I have to dip out now. I really appreciate all the questions. And for those who spent the time criticizing me and the randomly selected title of this AMA, thanks for joining, too. I hope it was beneficial to see some actual conversation about the issue and not just the back-and-forth griping that gets us nowhere.

Have a great weekend everyone!

AmKonSkunk21 karma

What other states are you currently working in to pass reform?

MasonTvert35 karma

Here are the states where we/I are doing the most work:

CO - implementation of Amendment 64

RI - bill to regulate/tax like alcohol in the legislature

NH - medical marijuana bill (passed last year and was vetoed, new governor has expressed support for medical marijuana laws)

VT - decriminalization (reducing penalties so they are similar to traffic tickets)

ME - bill to regulate/tax like alcohol in the legislature

OR - working on the ground to build public support and coalition leading up to a 2016 initiative

AK - working with allies on the ground to draft an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol and to build a coalition in support of that initiative

CA - working with allies on the ground to discuss best strategy for moving forward with a 2016 initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol

IL - medical marijuana bill

MN - medical marijuana bill

MD - bill to provide protection to medical marijuana caregivers

HI - working with allies on the ground who are pushing bills to regulate marijuana like alcohol and to decriminalize possession of small amounts

jorgpadill17 karma

how hard is it gonna be to legalize marijuana in the state of Texas? i feel like its gonna be impossible cause of all the corruption that goes on...

MasonTvert17 karma

Unfortunately, pretty damn hard. But if it makes you feel better, it will be just as hard as most other states. Again, this is largely because it will need to go through the legislature and cannot be done via initiative. There isn't enough public support for an initiative at this time, but even when there is, an initiative won't be possible and we'll have to rely on the much slower legislative process.

MasonTvert17 karma

I should add, though, that this in no way means things are hopeless or that there is nothing that can be done. I think it's critical that people get out there and educate the public about marijuana, particularly the fact that it is safer than alcohol. We need to shift the public attitude out there if we are ever going to see any change. Also, there's some hope for local changes in the future. For example, some interesting stuff has come up in El Paso, and it'd be great to see Austin move the ball forward. The problem that arises is a shitty TX law that makes local marijuana initiatives virtually impossible to run.

MasonTvert6 karma

submitted by kooley

What immediate impacts have Amendment 64 had on Colorado? Positive or negative?

MasonTvert7 karma

Things are going very positively here in CO following passage of 64. The governor issued an executive order in Dec. to officially put the initiative into effect, at which point possession and home-growing of limited amounts of marijuana by adults became legal under state and local laws. That means nobody is being cited for simple possession any longer (we have yet to hear of any cases and don't expect any).

The governor also established a task force to begin developing recommendations for the legislature on how to best establish the system of regulation called for in the initiative. That task force has been meeting and is beginning to finalize recommendations. They have until the end of February to finish up. Then the legislature will have until the end of the session (May 6 or so) to pass a law establishing the system.

MasonTvert5 karma

Submitted earlier by HillZone

  • When do you think cannabis will be legal in the U.S.?
  • It seems that the coasts are ahead of middle America when it comes to reform. What do you think needs to be done to get the Midwest to modernize its cannabis laws?

MasonTvert9 karma

There needs to be more public education done in the Midwest and the south. It's my belief that people's attitudes toward reform are linked to how much they hear about it – how many news stories they see, how many conversations they engage in, etc. The more people hear about the issue, the more support we see for reform. So there needs to be more work done to inject the issue into the public discourse. This is not always easy, especially when resources are limited and typically directed toward states where it is more likely we will see laws pass sooner. But I am committed to trying to spark those conversations in other states, which has been demonstrated by our solid media pushes behind bills introduced this session in TX, OK, KS, and IN. There are some good local activists around the country that are making things happen, as well, and I am always open to trying to work with those folks.

MasonTvert7 karma

I think we will continue to see states passing measures similar to those in CO and WA. Particularly, we'll see one in 2014 (AK) and then hopefully a handful in 2016 (OR, ME, and CA, in particular). Meanwhile we'll continue to see the issue brought up in various legislatures (legalization bills have been introduced in several states this year). We will also see more states adopt medical marijuana laws – there are currently 18 + DC – and there are several likely to do so over the next couple years. At that point there will likely be an exceptional amount of pressure on the federal government to make some federal changes.

In the interim, we hope the feds will respect the voters in CO and WA, as well as in those 18 states that have adopted medical laws, and I think that is possible. It will take some good laws in the states, though. Particularly it will take state regulated production and sales and a demonstration that everything is under control.

JohnCassius5 karma

Where do you draw the line in terms of legalizing drugs?

Which drugs should be legally available to the public, in your opinion, and to what extent?

MasonTvert1 karma

See answer above.

MasonTvert5 karma

Already submitted questions:

Submitted by captainplantit

On the Bill Maher show, Mason alluded to running a legalization prop in CA in 2014 if Bill and his friends put up money (to which Bill promised on the show he would).

However, most of the discussion I've seen is around a prop push in CA for 2016, which as we all know is a looong way off, especially for a state in which Prop 19 was so narrowly defeated in 2010 (in a non-presidential election and prior to A64 and I502 passing no less) .

I know CA is expensive to run a prop campaign in, but it feels like we could totally pass something in 2014 given the wind is at our backs. Does Tvert still intend to run a campaign in California in 2014, and if not, why?

MasonTvert8 karma

The goal in CA is a statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in 2016. I don't know if that level of detail came up on the Maher show. But that's the case. We definitely want this initiative run during a presidential election year to take advantage of increased and more supportive turnout, and it gives us a couple years to continue building public support and the coalition behind the measure.

Could CA pass something in 2014? Perhaps. But, as you mentioned, it's incredibly expensive (upwards of about $15 million), so we need to make sure we win, and that's what I think will be the outcome if we wait until 2016.