As the Communications Director for the world’s largest cannabis law reform group – the Marijuana Policy Project – Mason Tvert is on the front lines of the battle to end cannabis prohibition. As one of the key proponents of Amendment 64, which legalized cannabis in Colorado, he’s also one of the most widely respected and admired cannabis reformers – and for good reason. Thanks to Amendment 64, anyone 21 and older in Colorado can now legally cultivate up to 6 cannabis plants, can walk around with an ounce in their pocket without fear of criminal repercussions, and starting next year, they’ll be able to purchase cannabis from legal retail outlets.
We had the opportunity to speak with Mason Tvert, to ask him a few questions surrounding his current work, his past work, and advice he would give to those new to the movement.
It’s been over 10 months since Amendment 64 and Initiative 502 were approved by voters. What are your thoughts on how things have been progressing?
They’ve been moving forward as planned. State officials have been developing regulations and a regulatory framework necessary to begin sales for adults. Things seem to be on schedule.
Looking back, if you had the opportunity, is there anything you would change or include in Amendment 64?
We might have looked at the situation with local control a little more. We knew Colorado localities are able to to prohibit marijuana businesses. While that would generally be the case no matter what law was past, we might have considered looking at ways to require a little more effort than a simple council vote.
Recently MPP announced a goal to legalize cannabis in 10 more states by 2017. How challenging of a goal do you believe this will be?
The support for ending marijuana prohibition is growing dramatically around the country. These are ten particular states where we’re seeing very strong support. One of the biggest obstacles is fundraising, to have enough resources available to qualify for the ballot and effectively campaign and lobby for the passage of these laws. But we are feeling good about our ability to raise the money needed and build a coalition needed to be successful in the next couple years.
In these 10 states, will Amendment 64 serve as the template?
Every state is always going to end up being different. But they will certainly be very similar to Amendment 64 in all likelihood. Each drafting process, however, will take into account various issues involving the state, what the state laws are, whether there are existing medical marijuana systems -, but in terms of the general concept of licensing marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, manufacturing and testing facilities, it’ll be really similar.
How many of these 10 states do you feel will end up including a provision for legal home cultivation?
I hope they all do. I think it’s for the same reasons we allow adults to brew their own beer at home as long as they’re not doing anything irresponsible with it. Adults 21 and older should be able to produce a small amount of marijuana in their own home. And that’s especially the case in places where people won’t be located near marijuana retail stores such as in cases where localities ban them.
If you’re successful in legalizing cannabis in the 10 proposed states by 2017, do you have any thoughts on which states would be the next 3?
To be clear the 10 states aren’t necessarily the only, or first 10 states to make marijuana legal next – although Alaska certainly is – but they’re ones that we’ll be focusing our efforts on as of now. Oregon is definitely a state where we expect to see a similar measure pass, whether in 2014 or 2016 will depend on whether a measure qualifies in 2014. Massachusetts and Montana are two states where we see significant support for ending prohibition, so these are also two states we’re likely to see efforts over the next couple years.
What is your suggestion to the people reading this who want to get involved in the legalization of cannabis, but aren’t exactly sure how, or where to start?
First and foremost people should begin by speaking to people closest to them about the issue. It may seem obvious, but all too often people get excited about hitting the street and handing out information to strangers, when in fact there’s family members and friends near by them that are still on the fence about ending marijuana prohibition and they’re the most likely to change their mind. That is far and away the most important thing for people to do.
Beyond that, reaching out to other local activists and other local organizations working in various states. Unfortunately resources are limited when it comes to this movement so there will always be initiatives going on and strong lobbying efforts, but there’s always work that needs to be done to educate voters, to educate elected officials and to really just change the way that people think about marijuana.
We would like to thank Mason Tvert for taking the time to speak with us.