As a director of the Yes on 64 campaign (which pushed Colorado’s pot-legalizing Amendment 64 to a definitive win in 2012) and the communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert is one of legal marijuana’s biggest proponents in the U.S. His organization’s fingerprints can be found on Alaska’s recent legalization win and on California’s 2016 recreational campaign — so how was he feeling the day after Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C. legalized recreational cannabis?
“I’m tired,” Tvert said quietly on Wednesday, “but everything’s good. It was a very exciting election year, and it bodes well for where things are headed in the next election.”
The next election, of course, is the 2016 presidential election when California and other states will have ballot initiatives pushing for recreational marijuana legalization.
“California is important because it’s the largest state in the country, and that means ending marijuana prohibition there will have perhaps a greater positive effect than it would in any other state, at least based on its size,” said Tvert. “It’ll be a huge undertaking, so it’ll be a big coalition effort. You’re looking at a state where you’ll have to spend millions of dollars just to get on the ballot.”
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But Tvert isn’t only referencing California when he talks of 2016.
“California’s the biggest, but the trajectory of Maine has mimicked what occurred in Colorado to a T,” said Tvert, who also noted that his organization and others have “filed committees to support statewide initiatives to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.”
“It’s been fun to watch and see things unfolding in Maine in almost an identical fashion (to Colorado).”
Looking back on the past 24 hours and an election that saw Florida’s medical marijuana amendment failing but recreational measures succeeding in Oregon, Alaska and Washington D.C., Tvert seems more confident than ever.
“Opponents who claimed voters are having ‘buyers remorse’ are clearly out of touch,” he said. “Support appears to be going up nationwide for ending marijuana prohibition, and that was reflected in the outcome of last night’s elections. People who want to maintain marijuana prohibition have been trying to scare voters into keeping marijuana illegal for years, and around the country voters said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and rejected those scare tactics.
“The fact that this was a midterm election suggests that we’ll see even greater support in 2016, when turnout is stronger and more diverse.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Tvert was confident in D.C. passing its recreational initiative — but unsure about the others.
“With Florida I was worried,” said Tvert, noting that the Sunshine State’s constitutional amendment required 60 percent of the votes to pass. “I had no doubt (the medical marijuana amendment) would get a majority, but I wasn’t sure it would reach 60 percent. When it came to Alaska and Oregon, I had no idea if they would pass or not.”
When asked about Colorado’s governor race, which had incumbent John Hickenlooper narrowly defeating Republican challenger Bob Beauprez — both of whom had plenty to say about marijuana in the months leading up to the election — Tvert took a second to think about how marijuana would have fared under each of the candidates.
“I don’t know what it would have been like under Beauprez,” Tvert said. “Hickenlooper’s administration has worked on this issue and made an effort to implement it, but who’s to say what would have happened under a different governor? At least the current administration has voiced support for addressing things like banking for the legal marijuana businesses and they’ve worked with the marijuana business community and others to get this program rolling in a timely fashion.
“The current administration has been working with the industry and other stakeholders to implement this measure and make it work, and it certainly would be more challenging to have to begin that process again with a new administration. But ultimately I think that this law is in place and whoever is governor needs to get used to the fact that Colorado made marijuana legal, and we need to treat it like it’s a legal product.”