Mason Tvert

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

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MasonTvert1444 karma

They received a solid chunk of dough from a shady AZ-based pharma company that produces a deadly painkiller and is in the process of developing "pharmaceutical cannabinoids."

MasonTvert1399 karma

I think the AZ initiative would have lost even if every "pro-legalization" voter voted for it. It might have received 49.9% instead of 49.7%, but I don't think it'd have won. The reason it lost is because (1) there was a massively well-funded opposition (spent ~$6 million, which is maybe the second or third most ever spent against a marijuana initiative); (2) a lot of the media outlets were quite slanted in their coverage, including the AZ Republic, which is the largest media outlet in a state with few large outlets; and most importantly, (3) this was the first time it had appeared on the ballot and the media and voters were new to it. There had been no local legalization/adult-use efforts like there had been in CO, WA, CA, MA, etc.

I don't think there is any way to pass a "perfect law" because there is no such thing as a perfect law. It's far too complex an issue and there are far too many viewpoints on it to appease every single person. You also have to factor in the potential for passage. Is a ballot initiative really perfect if it is all but certain to fail?

What we have seen time and time again is that reform is an ongoing process, not a finite solution. As we have seen in Colorado, the initiative laid the foundation and improvements will continue to be made.

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.

MasonTvert660 karma

Our position is that employers should treat marijuana similarly to alcohol. Employees should not be punished for responsible off-the-job consumption that does not affect their work. Obviously there are some occupations out there that are more sensitive than others (pilots, electrical workers, etc.), but we already have public policies that address safety-sensitive occupations.

The question is how to bring about such policies. And it's worth noting that different states handle this subject in different ways. For example, some states have laws that prohibit employers from firing employees solely for engaging in a legal activity. Other states do not have such laws and allow employers to fire employees without cause. So it could be the case that this will not be handled as a marijuana-specific issue and just falls under other employment laws. But that's not to say it will result in the fairest outcome. Even in Colorado, which does have such a law that protects employees who engage in legal activities, the courts determined marijuana use is not covered because it is still an illegal activity under federal law.

This subject (employment) is NOT unique to marijuana. Dictating employment policies via public policy is always a politically sensitive subject. Lawmakers know it is touchy and so do advocates and political professionals who work on ballot measures.

That is why, ultimately, I think this is going to be an issue that gets sorted out culturally. It might get addressed legally at times, and we have seen employment protections included in some marijuana policy reforms. But overall, it is just going to be a matter of time before more laws change and the public's attitude changes. For the same reason that most employers would not want to fire good workers (and then recruit and train replacements who may not be as good/experienced) simply for legally using alcohol while they're off the job, most employers are not going to want to go through all of that for employees who legally use marijuana off the job. It simply is not good for business.

The problem is that we still have a lot of people out there who still believe a lot of the old reefer madness and actually think a marijuana user is unfit for employment. But people's attitudes are changing and as the old guard is replaced by people who have more modern views on marijuana, businesses will voluntarily change their policies. Changes in marijuana's legal status will help too — there are surely employers out there who don't care so much about marijuana as they do about having a "lawbreaker" on the payroll. And keep in mind that larger companies with offices/locations in multiple states might want/need to treat all of its employees equally, so they might not make these changes until marijuana laws change in all of those states. Or possibly not until there are federal changes.

When it comes to our work, we want to promote the fairest policies possible. But sometimes it is clear that putting something in a bill or initiative re: employment policies will all but guarantee it's failure. If we believe that will be the case, we oftentimes keep measures silent on the subject because we know it will be something that gets addressed quicker if we make progress. If our goals are to end prohibition and protect employees' rights, but it's clear that including the latter will doom both goals, then it makes sense to address the former. It will then be much easier to address the latter.

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.

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).

MasonTvert606 karma

The answer to your question is to keep doing what you're doing. Ohio voters clearly thought that initiative was wrong for Ohio, so they voted it down, and in doing so, they sent a message that that type of a proposal isn't going to fly.

I can't imagine anyone would be foolish enough to propose the same thing again. MPP certainly took it into account when we worked with local activists to bring forward a medical marijuana initiative last year. We have never backed laws like the 2015 Ohio initiative, but we took extra precautions to ensure our medical initiative avoided that type of system. I imagine anyone who supports a broader adult-use initiative in the future would also take similar precautions. At least I would hope.

MasonTvert484 karma

Most importantly and at the most basic level, you can talk about the issue, starting with the people closest to you and working your way out to the people furthest from you. Talk to your family members and friends. Make sure they know this issue is important to you and let them know why. I also strongly encourage you to begin by making sure they understand marijuana is a less harmful substance than alcohol — this is a critical fact that many people still don't know. In the case of opponents, people are more likely to reconsider their long-held beliefs if they are approached by somoene close to them, as opposed to being handed a flyer or seeing an ad.

As for taking things to the next level, find out what's happenign your state. You can do this on our website at Find out if there is good or bad marijuana legislation on the agenda this year and then be sure to contact your state legislators about it.

You can also take action at the federal level by contacting your U.S. rep and senator —

Look around online to see if there are any local organizations that have already been formed to work on this issue in your state or city. If there are, try reaching out to them to see how you can get involved.

MasonTvert481 karma

MPP works exclusively on marijuana policy, so professionally I don't get into addressing those substances.

Personally, I believe the use of any substance should be treated as a health issue and not a criminal justice issue. I think all substances should be treated based on their relative effects and potent for harm. In other words, I don't think it's a legal-vs-illegal situation — it's a lot more complex with different approaches to different substances.

MasonTvert300 karma

It is too soon to tell. Based on what we currently know, I think there are just as many reasons to be optimistic about the incoming administration as there are to be pessimistic. That could change. But for now, we're cautiously optimistic.

Sessions is obviously no fan of marijuana and in his ideal world he very well might want marijuana to remain illegal and to roll back the progress that has been made in many states. But it will not be an ideal world for him if he's nominated. It will be a world in which 8 states + DC have already legalized marijuana and 28 states have legalized medical marijuana. A world of very limited enforcement resources, steadily growing support for legalization (among the public and in Congress). A world where hundreds of thousands of people now have jobs that were created by or are partially supported by the legal marijuana industry. Where states and localities have begun to generate millions of tax dollars that they will not want to lose. And it will be a world in which the president, others in his administration, and other key figures in his party have much bigger policy priorities than marijuana.

I think it is very noteworthy that Sessions was asked directly about the conflict between federal and state laws during his confirmation hearing, and he opted to not make any strong statements about wanting to interfere in state laws. He also noted that there was a resources problem when it comes to enforcing these federal laws.

Also, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer was asked about the apparent conflict between Sessions' anti-marijuana stance and Trump's support for medical marijuana and a "leave it to the states" approach. He said that it will be Trump's administration and Sessions knows as well as anyone that he will be implementing Trump's agenda and not his own. See here for the full comment + MPP's reaction to it all —

And see here for everything Trump said on the issue during his campaign —