Marijuana: Great Legalization Debate II will be about unity, not bickering, says organizer
In June, the first Great Legalization Debate, which was intended to seek common ground on the issue of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana, deteriorated into a snipe-fest, with Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act proponent Mason Tvert pitted against most of the other participants. So how will the second debate, slated for tomorrow night at Casselman's, avoid similar disaster? Says Legalize2012.com's Laura Kriho: "Mason won't be there."
According to Kriho, also known for her work with the Cannabis Therapy Institute, "It was against my better judgment that we invited Mason to begin with. It was supposed to be a debate with people who were willing to work together -- and because he wasn't willing, it turned into what it did.
"My goal was to get everybody in the state to work together, but Mason has taken his toys to play in his sandbox by himself -- and that's why it was counterproductive. So now we're back to the original idea: working together to create legislation."
For the record, Tvert says he and his associates solicited the opinions of all marijuana activists before settling on language for the initiative, and they want to build a strong and positive relationship within the cannabis community. Case in point: Tvert decided not to pursue charges against Miguel Lopez, who allegedly snatched a petition away from a Regulate volunteer at a recent event. Lopez, a veteran marijuana activist, is a vocal critic of the Act team's approach.
As for those on the dais tomorrow, Crazy for Justice's Corey Donahue won't be featured this time around. But plenty of other well-known figures from the marijuana movement are scheduled, including Greenfaith Ministry's Reverend Brandon Baker, Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers' Robert Chase, Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project's Kathleen Chippi, Cannabis Alliance for Regulation and Education's Rico Colibri, attorneys Rob Corry and Danyel Joffe, Vitamin Cannabis producer Kyle "Cap'n Cannabis" Marsh, and Timothy Tipton of the Rocky Mountain Caregivers Cooperative.
Kriho, meanwhile, will serve as moderator -- a role played last time around by Westword editor Patricia Calhoun. She hopes to create an atmosphere conducive to give and take, not body blows. The previous debate "was my one chance to speak my mind," she says. "I won't be able to participate in this one, but it's good that we're getting new people into the mix. We want to get some new ideas out there so we can come up with language for the 2012 ballot that people can all agree on."
Not everyone, of course. Kriho believes the marijuana-legalization movement has split "into two camps that I'd liken to Republicans and Democrats. Mason's camp says, 'Let's control it. Let's hand the keys over to the Department of Revenue and continue with seed-to-sale tracking and surveillance.' It's what we call the law-enforcement model. And we favor more liberalization. We're fighting for cannabis freedom. We want all crimes related to cannabis to be abolished."
A Legalize2012.com graphic.
The latest Casselman's debate won't be the last. Kriho expects more conversations to take place before language is finalized, probably around the first of the year. In the meantime, she admits that "Colorado might not be ready for legalization. It certainly doesn't seem like it." But she believes that if a true legalization movement fails, "we'll have an organization on the ground that's ready for the next battle."
Page down to get all of the details about tomorrow's event, courtesy of Legalize2012.com.