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09 November 2005

Nuts & Bolts of Denver's New Flying Pig

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Vleeptron received this today, a response from our e-mail screaming CONGRATULATIONS!!!

The thing speaks for itself -- but notice: They spent $25,000! In a City the size of Denver, the voters were so ready to decriminalize personal adult use of marijuana that all it took to win this vote was $25,000!


(Boldfacing and other typographical Monkey Business for emphasis -- Vleeptron did that.)


Hello Friends:

It is with great pleasure that I write you following the passage of I-100 -- the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative -- in Denver, Colorado. I apologize for the delay in this correspondence, but as you can imagine we have been quite busy this past week. In fact, along with the press inquiries and interview requests, we have been inundated
with thousands of E-mails from folks in Denver, across Colorado and the country, and even around the world! We honestly cannot keep up with it all -- this is a gripe I could only have dreamed of just weeks ago. The response has truly been incredible and we are thrilled to see our message --

marijuana is less harmful
than alcohol and should
be treated as such

-- spread so far and so fast.

The purpose of this E-mail is

1) to answer the many questions we have received about I-100 and the current state of things in Denver following its passage,

2) to address the questions about what SAFER will do next and whether we will be spreading to other cities and communities around the country,

3) to thank you all for your kind words and continued support, and

4) as always, to respectfully ask you to consider making a financial contribution to our efforts (although we spent just less than $25,000 on the Denver campaign -- a remarkably small amount -- we still have some debt to pay off).

We would like to respond to everyone's E-mails personally, but as the correspondence keeps pouring in it is becoming quite clear we will not be able to do so. Should you have E-mailed me our SAFER with a specific question (and it is not answered in this E-mail) we will do everything possible to respond to you ASAP. If you suggested your college, town or city as a prospect for a SAFER project, we have taken note of it and will be sure to keep you updated on what we're doing.

As many of you already know, the adoption of I-100 immediately amended Denver's city ordinances to make the private use and possession of marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. Although many cities and towns have taken large and influential steps toward ending marijuana prohibition (eg. Oakland, Seattle, Ann Arbor, etc.), Denver is in fact
the first city in the country to remove ALL municipal penalties for adult marijuana use and possession. Thus, there are clearly MANY questions regarding what this means for Denver, the State of Colorado and the country.

The following are the most popular questions we've been receiving and are accompanied by my answers. I trust this will answer many questions you all might have, but please feel free to let us know if you have questions that you do not see answered here. Please keep in mind we will be going through these E-mails answering more specific questions
for the next couple weeks.


- What should I do if I get cited for PRIVATE marijuana use and/or possession in Denver and I'm over 21?

DO NOT PAY THE FINE AND CONTACT SAFER IMMEDIATELY. We have a team of folks, including many in the legal field, who are preparing for this possibility. We will likely be able to work something out in terms of legal fees, and you should keep in mind the greatest penalty you would face is the fine under state law that you'd be paying anyway. Although we have yet to hear of a single case of an individual 21 or older being cited since I-100 passed, this does not mean you are
entirely safe. At any time you CAN be cited under state law. We do not deny that state law can be enforced; we simply point out that city law can legally be enforced instead. Whether the police and prosecutors respect the will of the people is largely up to our elected officials, including the mayor and 13-member council. We will be working to point
this out publicly, and I encourage you to spread the word that the city has every right to legally implement I-100. It's not whether they can, but whether they will, and right now they simply don't want see it happen "on their watch."


- Is using marijuana in public legal in Denver?

No. There are two sections of the Denver ordinance pertaining to marijuana use. The first involves private use and possession -- this is the one we changed -- and the second, which was not changed, deals with public use and display. Using marijuana in public remains illegal under city laws, which still mandate a citation and fine, as well as the
potential for up to 15 days in jail if you get busted. Thus, SAFER strongly discourages people from using marijuana in public.

- Is cultivating/growing marijuana legal in Denver? Is
selling/trafficking marijuana legal in Denver?

No. Growing and selling marijuana remain illegal in Denver. As we've said from the beginning, we would like to see marijuana treated similarly to alcohol, so we are working toward a system of regulation (and potentially taxation) that would lead to this goal being realized. After all, it is not really legal to grow and sell any products for human consumption that are not regulated in some way. Many folks have expressed discontent with a change in law that allows private marijuana use, but no legal way to obtain it. This is obviously something we have been well aware of from the beginning. Consider it this way: it is legal for an adult to possess and use alcohol privately, but it's illegal for an adult to produce alcohol themselves and sell it without
it being regulated or to consume it out in the open in public. The passage of I-100 has made it legal under city law for an adult to possess and use marijuana; we are now moving toward the system by which private adults and/or companies can be licensed to legally grow and sell marijuana.

- What happens with driving under the influence of marijuana?

Driving under the influence of marijuana is NOT a good idea, and it remains illegal following the passage of I-100. Although marijuana has NOT been significantly associated with culpability in traffic accidents, there is no doubt it should be avoided. We seek to have marijuana treated like alcohol, and this includes using it responsibly and not putting others in harm's way. After all, this only strengthens our argument that private use of marijuana should be allowable because
it does not effect anyone other than the user. The second you get in your car with marijuana, this changes everything. Also, DUID cases involving marijuana generally do not go a long way in court and get reduced to traffic infractions because it's very hard to prove the driver was actually "under the influence" when they were driving (THC remains in metabolites far longer than alcohol and most drugs -- about 3

- What happens with employee and court-sanctioned drug testing?

Drug testing will continue, especially since there is federal
legislation that mandates it in many cases. Nevertheless, the passage of I-100 clearly provides Denver residents with a great legal argument when it comes to dealing with the courts should a case involving drug testing arise.


- Does state or federal law "supersede" city law in terms of I-100?

No. It is a widely held belief that state law always supersedes city law and federal law always supersedes state law, but this is NOT the case. No law supersedes another until a court determines that it does, and even then it is subject to appeals and legislative checks.

This will likely result in some court cases that could very well determine (for now) whether this is in fact a case in which state law supersedes city law. But there is NO reason to assume it does. For example, because Colorado is a home rule state (a weak state with powerful cities), there are multiple cases in which the city violates state law. One of them is the pit bull ban, a direct violation of a state law outlawing the prohibition of a species. In this case, the
city took the state to court arguing that it COULD violate state law and it WON! Thus, conflicting city and state laws can coexist, much like conflicting state and federal laws coexist.

In terms of the federal government, many folks think the recent medical marijuana case established that the feds have the final say on marijuana. This is not the case, however, and change at the federal level cannot occur without change at the local and state levels first. The fact that Colorado (and 9 or 10 other states) allow the use of medical marijuana and have an official hand in these systems exemplifies how such laws coexist. The ruling determined the feds COULD raid and prosecute medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but it did not say they SHOULD.

In fact, the DEA only handles about 1 percent of the cases involving marijuana. In other words, marijuana is for the most part a local law enforcement issue, and it's not like the DEA is going to pull you over for speeding or come to your home for a noise complaint and find marijuana.

What it comes down to is this: there is no silver bullet to marijuana prohibition and there is no black and white in terms of the law -- there is only progress towards an ideal. assure you this will be an issue for some time, and you will likely hear a lot more on this in the future. All we have to say is,

if you don't believe the government
when they say marijuana is the devil,
why would you believe them
when they say an old law based on this lie
supersedes a new law based on the truth?

All in all, passage of I-100 is a huge step toward the repeal of marijuana prohibition and the establishment of safer, more honest marijuana laws in Colorado and around the nation(s). We are proud to play such a large role in this shared goal at such an early juncture in our organization's existence, and we assure you we will continue to do everything in our power to progress this movement.

The Unknown:

- What is SAFER doing next?

SAFER will be having a board meeting and a great deal of discussion and strategic planning these next few weeks. We do plan on spreading our operation to other locales, but no plans are set in stone yet. I assure you we will be keeping everyone up to date on what we decide to do, and we encourage you to contact us if you have reason to believe your college or city is ripe for change. As I said above, we are currently examining suggestions, so we'll be getting in touch if we
wish to discuss it with you further.

Otherwise, it appears to be time this snake shed its skin, as we plan on revamping our organization in the manner necessary to take our efforts to the next level. This will not be an easy process, and it will likely require quite a bit money to catch our operation up with our actions. We need your help to do this!

Please consider making a donation to SAFER today so that we can pay off our campaign debts and begin gearing up for our next battle in the war to end marijuana prohibition.

Make checks payable to:

P.O. Box 40332
Denver, CO 80204

Thank you all again for the kind words and warm wishes. The ratio of positive messages to negative messages was easily 25 to 1! In other words, the response has been a real eye-opener in terms of how widespread and mainstream the opposition to the war on marijuana truly is. The vote on I-100 sure opened some eyes here in Denver, and we hope it stimulated some conversation on the subject around you too. We look forward to staying in touch.

Keep fighting and stay SAFER


Mason Tvert
Executive Director, SAFER
(720) 275-8230


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